by Melanie Zhang ’22
Published Dec. 23rd, 2020
Along with the economy and the healthcare system, the pandemic is also taking a toll on people’s mental health, particularly that of teenagers. The general uncertainty and restrictions of quarantine has made daily life all the more difficult and less fulfilling for them, and there are no easy solutions to the problem.
Living in a pandemic inherently induces anxiety. Victoria Bigga ‘22 found that the “inability to feel in control… because everyday is so unpredictable” has taken its toll by “causing more anxiety and stress.” Even semi-normalcy in a hybrid schooling model is a far cry from ordinary everyday life. Marisa Conners ‘22 said that the hybrid model “stressed [her] out more than full virtual because of all the unsafe factors of being in the building, [such as] masks [that] were badly fitted.”
Just like before, school remains a major stressor. Cass Vandevoorde ‘23 found that school is even harder because of “isolation and burnout,” as well as increased exposure to blue light from being in front of a screen for a long time. In addition, Ashley Kwon ‘22 describes “staying inside” and being “preoccupied with [her] school workload” as reasons why COVID has made life more difficult, explaining that she feels teachers “expect the same amount of work and effort” even though she, like many, has “experienced [a] drop in motivation”.
Meanwhile, Declan Wahlers ‘21 stated that COVID “has made things rather dull,” saying that there is “a daily routine that [he goes] through everyday, and [that he] often won’t leave [his] house for days at a time as there is [nowhere] to go.” Other interviewed students also mentioned these feelings of nihilism.
Unfortunately, quarantine and online school also make accessing necessary mental health care more difficult. “I don’t feel wholly confident that I know who is suffering, how much, and how I can better meet them where they are,” said Ms. Fattorusso. This is compounded by the fact that “therapy is often inaccessible and teens are not encouraged enough to seek it,” according to Marisa Conners ‘22.
There are, however, small things that can be done to make things easier. Mr. Stemmler said that he tends “to give [his] students short breaks, every 25 minutes or so” because we “all need that time away from the computer.” Annabelle Wang ‘22 also mentioned the importance of having “anchors” within daily life to keep life meaningful. These are things like “holding a warm cup [or] feeling the wind, listening to a bird sing, watching the stars and the moon at night, and other things that sound corny but are so meaningful”—small things that remain intact even when the world itself seems to be falling apart.