The COVID pandemic dramatically impacted the mental well-being of many Clayton High School students.
A staggering number of CHS students have seen a slight or dramatic decline in their overall mental well-being. Many students have cited stress, poor social life, low motivation, previous mental health issues and the grim context of this pandemic as the reason for their declining mental health.
Because of this pandemic, I have gotten a lot more anxious
— Anonymous CHS Student
“Because of this pandemic, I have gotten a lot more anxious,” said an anonymous CHS student.
She explained, “I’m not a person that is productive at home, so when I spend time on things that I feel like I shouldn’t, I would get anxious over it.”
Anxiety isn’t the only feeling that students have experienced after living through a pandemic throughout this past year.
Sometimes students can’t pinpoint their exact emotions because of this pandemic. Nevertheless, they do acknowledge that their overall mental well-being has declined.
When Kirby Miller, a sophomore at Clayton High School, was asked to describe his emotions during this crisis, he said, “Mixed feelings is the answer. In the beginning, when I found out that schools were closing, I was getting a lot of anxiety over hoping that we wouldn’t close down. But then we did and when we were learning independently by the fourth quarter, I was not having it. And learning independently? I couldn’t do that well, I just couldn’t.”
A major contributing factor to the mental health crisis among Clayton High School students is the transitions between different modes of learning. These seemingly constant transitions have negatively impacted student’s stress levels and anxiety.
Gabriel Monge, a freshman, said, “It’s hard to adapt to online learning, and I think it’s hard for teachers as well.”
This is partially due to the idea that teachers have less time to teach, and the original means they had to do this is less effective within the context of a global pandemic.
Monge explained, “I feel like some of the teachers and the school are trying to keep the original form of teaching, the form of teaching we are all used to, in a system that won’t work.”
Unfortunately, this drastic educational change has emotionally impacted many students including Monge.
He explained, “I think what makes me anxious is how the school itself wasn’t able to adapt to the hybrid schedule and that the curriculum and the school and the teachers weren’t able to adapt very well. When this happens, then everything sorts of collapses.”
This shift to hybrid and online learning has placed a huge burden on teachers and students, and has drastically and negatively impacted their mental healths overall.
The drastic shift in the way that education is taught has negatively impacted students and their grades.
“I’ve seen many of my friends and fellow students that have had their grades drop significantly during the pandemic. So I feel like this is a big burden for both teachers and students. Focusing on studies feels very lethargic and tiring, especially for some kids that have been looking at a computer all day,” Monge said.
Some students have had made the painful decision to sacrifice their grades to preserve their mental well-being.
Many teachers have recognized this.
An anonymous student explained, “I’m very thankful for my teachers because most of them, no, all of them, in fact, are very generous with their due dates, and I can see how much they cut down [the amount of work] from previous years.”
Ultimately, this pandemic has transformed how learning can be done, demonstrating the possibly of online learning. However, this comes at the expense of good grades and mental well-being.
Humans are social creatures. Many students have expressed that their mental health is worsening, because they cannot interact with their friends as they normally could.
“I miss going out with friends and study time in the afternoon, because we used to do that in various places and now we can’t do that,” said one student.
She explains, “I feel like I definitely have lost a lot of connection with other peers because I have not been able to see them.”
Other students have also faced similar dilemmas.
It’s just hard to socialize with people because usually, I can do anything I want with them
— Kirby Miller
Miller explained that “it’s just hard to socialize with people because usually, I can do anything I want with them. But, this whole thing is changing the way I can socialize with them.”
While the ability to socialize has not been eradicated due to this public health crisis, it has been impacted in such a way that students feel as though their social life was crumbling away.
Many students have expressed their mental state in simple terms.
One student said her mental state was “an avalanche crashing down, but it always calms after that.” Other students have described their mental state as exhausted or tired, or mixed. It seems as though the majority of students at Clayton High School would somewhat agree with these statements.
This pandemic has been like an avalanche, not just for students, but for people all around the world. This pandemic has been a global crisis, that is tiring and confusing.
Despite this crisis, many students have found ways to bear the burdens of this ongoing crisis through different and unique coping mechanisms.
Miller said that “The main thing done more was play violin, because I’m in orchestra. So, I’ve been practicing more of that as an activity.”
Many other students have found ways to improve their mental health during this pandemic. A large majority of students found that exercising and just getting outside can have a positive impact on their general outlook and mood.
Other students have been hanging out with friends (socially distant), while countless others have found new passions, hobbies and creative outlets for themselves. Relaxing, procrastinating and perhaps realizing that grades don’t define them.
Students have acquired many life lessons about mental health from this pandemic.
An anonymous student said, “[Poor mental health] could really happen to anyone. If you told me last year that I would have a crash down, I would not believe that because I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person, and that I could handle everything. [I learned that] sometimes, it only takes one instance for a person to break down.”
The COVID pandemic has weakened the mental well-being of many students. But, at the same time, it has – and will – strengthen the generation of students who are the future of humanity.