By Georgia Schultz, Writer
On March 22, 2021, all schools in New York reopened for hopefully the final time during the COVID-19 pandemic. The devastation of this virus has caused over 5 million deaths, economic strife, and the unrivaled curbs of social interaction, branding serious impacts and effects on the mental health of teens.
For the first time in almost a year, things are seemingly back to normal, but now it’s time to reflect on the disastrous plague that ripped apart the mental health of today’s youth, and what it has left in its wake.
“I believe as a society we all experience trauma from this global pandemic,” says Jennifer Hite, a social worker in New Paltz High School. “There will definitely be effects from COVID that relate to depression, isolation, and stress.”
The COVID-pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, especially students. As we transition back to school, it is becoming even more apparent the aftermath the pandemic has left behind, deteriorating the minds of millions, and in some cases causing severe mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and more.
Studies and surveys conducted so far in the pandemic consistently show that young people are more vulnerable to increased psychological distress than adults. According to the Center of Disease Control, symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders have increased considerably in the United States during 2020, compared to 2019. After the life-changing events that have taken place in the past year and a half, it’s no surprise that the rates of mental health problems have increased.
The world is so different than it was two years ago, and now that we are finally flipping the switch in an attempt to gain normality once more, parents and teachers must acknowledge that the struggles to maintain a healthy mentality is harder than ever for teens.
“Teaching remotely forced me to accept that education was different last year, and this was not going to be an experience that was customary to me as an educator,” said Joel Neden, who has been teaching at New Paltz High School for 16 years. “I had to accept the fact that some days were just going to be terrible.”
But it wasn’t just the faculty who had a hard time adjusting to life in a virtual learning environment. A national survey of 3,300 high school students conducted in the spring of 2021 found nearly a third reported they were unhappy and depressed “much more than usual” in the past month. Lack of social interaction, communication, and relationships are known to directly correlate with the well being of students, with almost 51% saying they felt a lot more uncertainty about the future as well. Lack of social interaction, communication, and relationships are known to directly correlate with the well-being of students.
“In situations of your lowest point you find out who will stand by you and who will leave you,” says a sophomore student in an anonymous interview. “You find out who your friends are.”
In this crisis that the world has become, it’s no surprise that navigating the ups and downs of teenage years have become even more difficult. The covid-19 pandemic has put immense pressures on students–, with schoolwork, friendships, self confidence, and more. These youthful years were never easy before the world was flipped upside down, it makes sense teens are having just a hard time adjusting.
“I have been a social worker for 20 years, and students need more emotional support than ever,” Hite says. “I personally think some empathy, support, encouragement, and understanding would go a long way.”
Many teens have reported feelings of loss, overwhelming anxiety, and stress that they had not experienced before the pandemic. Teenage years are hard enough as it is for adolescents, the split in life between childhood and adulthood that shapes you as a person and can isolate you from societal norms is never easy.
“I feel nervous because I still don’t know what the future holds,” says 15 year old Parker Reed, a student at New Paltz High School, “and I’m reluctant to put everything in the rear view mirror. “