Back on campus, student mental health still matters

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The Catalyst / Ciara Kingham

Improving student mental health is an important part of the NDB community, especially with the return to on-campus learning.

During the dreadful nearly two years that we spent in quarantine, one of the biggest concerns among the whole nation was mental health, especially in students.

With online distance learning, students were not able to work collaboratively with our peers or seek the help we needed from teachers to the same extent as in-person learning, making it harder to succeed academically. This all took a significant toll on our mental health.

Students were not just experiencing hardships socially and academically, but were also overcome with fear watching the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic had on our world. We would sit at home watching cases and death rates skyrocket, evoking anxiety over our safety and the lives of our loved ones. Again, this all took a significant toll on our mental health.

According to a national poll on the pandemic’s negative impact on teen mental health conducted by the University of Michigan, 46% – so almost half – of parents noticed an increase in mental health conditions from March 2020 to March 2021. The poll asked parents to reflect on the behaviors of their teenagers during the pandemic and reported that 36% of girls and 19% of boys were affected by anxiety and 31% of girls and 18% of boys battled depression.

Although most teens suffer from pandemic-inflicted mental health problems, it is especially evident in girls; as a female-dominant community, this is something that we should be considering.

Schools around the nation, including NDB, knew how the pandemic was affecting students, so they made many changes and accommodations during our time away from campus in order to improve our mental health. Teachers would check-in with their students and would be understanding when it came to workload. Zoom activities would be organized to encourage students to stay in-touch and not become socially isolated. School leaders would work to keep students motivated and help them cope with the anxiety brought on by the state of our world.

The times isolated at home are hard to look back on, and luckily it seems as if we have moved on from it all. COVID-19 vaccines have been available and administered, case and death rates have dropped, and the world feels safer. We are back on campus, six-foot social distancing is no longer necessary, and sports and extracurriculars are back in session. Life seems completely back to normal with the simple requirement of masks. Students are able to socialize and collaborate again. So, all their issues should be resolved, right?

We must remember that mental health issues that developed or worsened during the pandemic do not just fade away. That anxiety or depression may still be just as present in students. We also cannot forget that returning to school can bring a whole new wave of mental health problems that are equally as important.

Being back with so many people after so long can create anxiety. Being in a new grade with more work can be difficult to manage. Being on a tighter schedule with less free time can be difficult to re-adjust to. Schools had done so much for the mental health of their students last year. So, why have they stopped some of it?

Even though there was more attention drawn to mental health during the pandemic, mental health problems can stem from anything. So, we must take what we learned over quarantine and continue to implement it this year and in our future. Teachers should still do the same daily check-ins, and there should be activities dedicated to improving the health and wellness of students.

As an NDB community, we need to take care of one another. We do not know what may be the cause of others’ mental health struggles, so we must address students’ well-being with the same energy that we had during quarantine in order to be the best and most supportive environment that we all strive for.

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