Mental health is an ongoing concern for college and school-aged students in our society, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped. Due to the coronavirus, schools and numerous educational programs were closed and most students were transitioned to online learning. The fate of schooling in the fall semester has not been clarified completely for all schools, but it is likely that many students will be required to learn remotely to some extent.
Although this transition reduced the spread of the virus, this modification has made an impact on the mental health of many students. In the normal school setting, students are surrounded by teachers, friends, and acquaintances. They are never alone. Remote learning has decreased outside connections. Isolation, and not by choice, is not beneficial to anyone with mental health issues. Additionally, students are facing increased stress and anxiety due to the “unknown”. At school, most students, even at college, follow a schedule that keeps them busy, active, and on task. Students in a school also have the opportunity to easily access their teachers/professors and ask questions or receive clarification. Online learning is just the opposite. Students no longer have face to face accessibility to their teachers/professors, so asking questions and receiving clarification is often delayed, adding to the stress inducers of online schooling. The transition from in-person learning to online learning can negatively affect mental health. Fortunately, there are many available resources to help during these uncertain times.
According to Resources to Recover these are some tips that can help maintain one’s mental health as we navigate through these uncertain times:
• Establish a regular schedule for yourself. When students are at home the distractions and unlimited “free” time often get in the way of productive online schooling. However, setting a schedule for yourself and sticking to it can be very beneficial and may aid in balancing the stressors that come with online learning.
• Avoid doing schoolwork before bed. The blue light emitted from your laptop negatively affects your circadian rhythm, your “internal clock”, and not obtaining enough sleep tends to harm your mental health. Getting enough sleep each night is essential in maintaining positive mental health.
• Virtually connect with friends and classmates. Take advantage of talking virtually with teachers, family members, friends, etc. Staying connected with people outside of your immediate family aids in decreasing isolation and can have a positive effect on mental health.
• Utilize online mental health resources. If you find yourself struggling during these times and nothing seems to be helping, reach out and access your available resources. There are many mental health resources available, from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to online advocacy groups and virtual therapy. These resources are in place for a reason, so never be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
The abrupt transition from in-person learning to online learning has had many effects on students’ mental health, but there are many resources available to provided assistance where applicable, so take advantage of them if you are in need or are struggling. Keep these tips in mind as the school year begins in the fall. Everyone is trying their best to navigate through this new normal, so be patient and establish your health, both physical and mental, a priority. Hopefully, in the near future we will be able to return to our “normal” day-to-day lives.
Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature to the Lockport Union Sun and Journal by the Eastern Niagara Health System. Bailey Lesniak is a student at Keuka College and this summer’s Intern at ENH through the Grigg Lewis Foundation.