“Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures”(Gallup). COVID-19 has had an effect on almost all aspects of our lives. People can’t go out as much, they can’t see our family, our friends, lots of adults have to work from home, and kids can’t go to school. Not going to in-person classes is a big deal since students usually spend three-quarters of the year studying for exams, working on assignments, doing projects, participating in labs, creating presentations, asking questions, and listening for bells that tell us where to go next. You might think that distance learning has given students a weight off their shoulders but for many students, it is completely the opposite. They no longer are able to see their friends and classmates. I am a senior in high school and I don’t think I realized how much I relied on the day-to-day interactions of being in school until after it was gone. Now, I sit behind a screen with my microphone and camera off only to be seen as a black box with my cartoon narwhal icon in the center. It seems that all the elements that have made school tolerable have vanished. There is none of the small interjections and banter seen in an in-person class. I will paint you a picture of a normal class for me. I log on to the call and everyone except the teacher has their camera off. The teacher asks what you did over the weekend and maybe one or two people answer in the chat. The teacher will give a lecture and most students will leave as quickly as they can when it is over. Obviously this is not how all classes go, but for many students, this is a day-to-day occurrence.
This transition to a new way of learning has had an impact on many student’s mental health. Many older students usually rely on their friends as a source of support. During in-person learning, they would have regular access to talk with their friends. And now because of e-learning and social distancing, a lot of interactions are over the phone. This has created fewer and shorter interactions which have resulted in less support. And if it is this difficult for older students, imagine elementary kids. Not only is it hard for younger students to stay focused during remote learning but there is a reason that parents decide to send their children to school, social skills. In school children learn how to interact with other people but now that part of their development has weakened. One interview conducted at Harvard with a clinical psychologist states, “In younger kids, psychological distress might manifest as new or worsening behavioral problems and difficulty separating from parents or caregivers.” These are just a couple of a multitude of unforeseen consequences on education that the pandemic has brought.
Already, one in five students struggle with mental health and only 20% of that 1/5th actually receive treatment or intervention. According to the American Psychological Association, “...anxiety and depression can often go undetected in the best of circumstances.” And now because of the pandemic, teachers and administrators can’t even see how their students are doing unless the student reaches out themselves. This is just because the physical space for learning has changed. One professional on mental health describes the relationship of exercising in younger children, “younger children are supposed to get a certain amount of activity each day for their development.” Now distance learning is limiting physical activity which is affecting students’ health and overall wellness of being a kid!
Overall students who interact with people less and have less social support don’t confide in people as much, which can lead to mental health problems. Struggles with mental health often lead to functioning issues, for students, this means problems in school. They can be less motivated to do assignments and study for tests. They may have trouble paying attention or on the opposite end, they will overstress themselves into burnout. These are just a couple of the reasons how mental health is directly related to how well a student is able to do in school. When looking for solutions on how to improve your mental health, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone. It can be as simple and connecting with people more or even asking for help. Finding that balance is crucial for supporting your own mental health and success in learning!
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/student-mental-health