Class of 2021: How has Covid-19 shaped our mental health?
By Maria Assaker
The pandemic has stolen more than lives, relationships, jobs or money; rather it has changed our society on a mental level. As students, we have been directly affected by the virus, resulting in lives that have been stunted in personal and interpersonal ways. We are still growing and this has made our journey more difficult, so how has Covid-19 impacted students mentally?
Personal and Inter-Personal Life
Our basic human interactions have definitely been hindered by Covid-19. In a sense our communications with others have essentially been minimised onto our phone screens, creating increasingly impersonal connections between others. Lockdown is about spending all your time with your family at home and only talking to close friends on an infrequent and often superficial level. It is easy to think that we have more time when we are stuck in our bedrooms but really we have just fooled ourselves into taking more time to finish our daily tasks as we have less company and less concrete objectives to motivate ourselves. ‘No more social life, it feels weird and not true anymore’ – a year 13 student when asked about his life now compared to before the pandemic.
Despite all the negative effects the pandemic has undoubtedly had on us, it has allowed some people to further develop themselves: ‘more time for myself, my family hangouts and house activities like gardening, baking, decorating.’
Let us not forget about the students who had to deal with the pain or the grief of a loved one or a family member because of the Covid-19, and yet they are still expected to persevere.
Students’ mental health is on the decline, to a point where it is beginning to affect one’s physical health. The anxiety and uncertainty caused by the virus has in a sense limited our abilities to balance and as such prevents a clear mind – manifesting in ways that damage the body: eating disorders, depression, separation anxiety all on the rise during this pandemic. In aims of protecting our physical health, we are damaging our mental health.
It is very different to communicate with teachers disconnected over a screen and with no physical copy of work. Even though our time is more flexible, it feels like when you have more independence, you have more ways to procrastinate especially when school work and homework are all merged together. A college student stated ‘my study life has been hugely disrupted, there is a lack of routine and discipline which I would experience in school.’ Although our official exams have been canceled, we are still expected to sit internal ones which leads students to feel like nothing has changed and yet are expected to continue despite the major social issues that have risen.
Teachers are encouraging students to go into full time education, this adds more pressure on university applicants, we constantly feel anxious about the process because for some securing a place in your dream University seems more complicated than ever. We tend to put our worth in our academic achievements which is now destroying our self esteem and hope for our future due to impacted performances as a result of an even further impacted education system.
On a more positive note, we can feel a sense of relief now; we can attend more educational events and open days online without wasting time on transport or money on booking hotels. Although it might not be ideal, it is good to know that you can now obtain work experience without having to leave your bedroom, for example. If you’re considering a medical career, you can attend the ‘Doctor for a Day’ course hosted by Medic Launch which will broaden your understanding of medicine and expand your knowledge on the realistic side of it.
Disconnectedness and Final Thoughts
With all this said, however, a key theme keeps cropping itself up throughout this conversation – that of the idea of disconnectedness. We choose to not do school work because we have the option not to, we choose not to talk to others because we have the option not to and so we act in detriment to ourselves simply because the options that are chosen are more attractive. We choose to disconnect in a sense because we do not have the support to decide otherwise. It is ironic that in a hyperconnected society with efficient communication systems that we are in fact struggling and we merely find ourselves lost.
The effect of the pandemic for me has been simple: it has caused us to lose ourselves.