The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought extra stress for everyone. Our health, the health of our loved ones, financial and job insecurity, or the struggles of online learning and work. This pandemic has not been easy for anyone. It has disrupted our daily lives for over a year, but what effects have we seen on our mental health? What solutions can help aid our students during this time?
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way schools function. Schools were becoming used to conducting school while off-campus, and students were also figuring how to maintain social and social distance. A research study done at a public University in North Carolina addresses the most common stressors that the pandemic brought. These stressors include “work reductions by either students or their parents, Covid-19 diagnosis or hospitalization of oneself, family members, or friends, distanced learning, and social isolation” (Jane Cooley, et al). Participants answered a series of questions that related to their mental health two times. Wave I was pre-pandemic, and Wave II happened four months into the pandemic. “The prevalence of moderate-severe anxiety symptoms increased by 40 percent from 18.1% pre-pandemic to 25.3% mid-pandemic. Similarly, the prevalence of moderate-severe depression symptoms increased by 48 percent from 21.5% to 31.7%.” (Jane Cooley, et al) . College is a time for high stress in everyday life. Combined with the pandemic, it would appear that we put our students through too much.
“The prevalence of moderate-severe anxiety symptoms increased by 40 percent… Similarly, the prevalence of moderate-severe depression symptoms increased by 48 percent…”
Jane Cooley Fruehwirth, “The Covid-19 Pandemic and Mental Health of First-Year College Students: Examining the Effect of Covid-19 Stressors Using Longitudinal Data.”
“Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased [by] approximately 24% and 31%, respectively”
M. Farber, The impact of coronavirus lockdowns on kids’ mental health.
This pandemic has also been a battleground for political disagreements, especially in the United States. An article from FOX NEWS, a heavily republican news outlet, blames school closures and lockdowns for an increase of mental illness in children. The author cites the CDC in saying that “Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased [by] approximately 24% and 31%, respectively” (Madeline Farber) . The FOX NEWS article also says that most children will recover once the contributing stressor is gone. But for those kids who were directly affected by the Corona Virus, either with not having food or housing security, becoming ill, or losing a loved one to the virus could lead to more permanent damage. It appears that the article from the solution from FOX NEWS is to open back schools and businesses despite growing numbers of Covid-Cases. CNN, a news channel that leans more to the left, has a different take on the steps we can take to help our children, and their mental health, in uncertain times like this. While mental health cases and higher-suicide-related behavior have increased over the last year, looking at the data monthly compared to 2019, some months were lower. The months that did see higher rates of suicide-related behaviors seemingly correspond to months of stressors relating to Covid-19 being more prevalent (Lisa Selin Davis) . CNN realizes that quarantining and virtual schooling is not over yet, so they provided different solutions to help student mental health. These included reducing the access to lethal means for those struggling with suicidal thoughts, keeping an eye out on the students for suicidal behaviors, promoting physical distancing while still being social, and normalizing that getting through the pandemic will take time, and everyone is struggling. While both of these sources tend to focus on elementary students, I believe the party ideologies will remain the same concerning universities.
Realizing that this time has added extra stress to everyone, there had to be a time when stress levels were normal. Mental health has existed before the pandemic and will likely outlive the pandemic. But with more people meeting the criteria of needed guided mental support, we need to know what we have been doing for mental health already. In an article from the New York Times from September 2019, two states had already instantiated taking mental health days (Natalie Proulx) . When creating this legislation, the state officials stated that students took time from school for mental health issues before but were instead faking a fever or a stomach ache. If we could be more accepting of taking time to work on ourselves and our minds, would we have better mental health as a community?
“The measures ’empower’ children to take care of their mental health.”
Natalie Proulx, Should Students Get Mental Health Days off from School?
Since the start of the school year, my school has been doing virtual Wednesdays with assemblies and office hours. The office hours have allowed everyone, including teachers, to have a day to seek help without the added stress of classes. It also has been well received by the students and teachers. It is the first time in my life, I do not want a three-day weekend and would rather have my workday Wednesday. I believe this might be the change and break that most students need during the pandemic and the years following. Even if Wednesdays are filled with fun extracurriculars and electives, the extra break will be much appreciated.
Works Cited Fruehwirth, Jane Cooley, et al. “The Covid-19 Pandemic and Mental Health of First-Year College Students: Examining the Effect of Covid-19 Stressors Using Longitudinal Data.” PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 3, Mar. 2021, pp. 1–15. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0247999.
 Farber, M. (2020, November 17). The impact of coronavirus lockdowns on kids’ mental health. Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://www.foxnews.com/health/coronavirus-lockdowns-kids-mental-health
 Davis, L. (2021, February 10). Keep paying attention to your kids’ mental health in this pandemic. Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/10/health/kids-mental-health-suicide-pandemic-wellness/index.html
 Proulx, Natalie. Should Students Get Mental Health Days off from School? 12 Sept. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/09/12/learning/students-mental-health-days.html?searchResultPosition=3.