In the aftermath of COVID-19, it has become a top priority to take serious measures and prevent the spread of disease. Schools canceled in-person classes and turned to online learning platforms. However, the new transition was not a seamless process and presented challenges of its own. On a global scale, the mental health of students began to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Those who already dealt with mental health issues found their condition to worsen. That being said, what are the negative effects that COVID-19 had on students’ mental health? 

Social Isolation

Communication is a key contributing factor that enables good connections, fosters strong relationships, and creates effective learning. But with online learning in effect, students experienced feelings of loneliness, depression, and demotivation. They could no longer learn and play alongside their classmates or attend social events, like prom or graduation, with their friends. Those who were enrolled in their first year of university struggled to make new friends or interact with them outside of class. By nature, human beings have always been social creatures that crave human interaction. Without it, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy state of mind. 

Limited Class Engagement and School Pressure

Since classes were no longer being taken in person, there was a limited engagement during online classes. Students usually did not receive adequate feedback when they asked for help or raised questions about the course content.  Soon, they were left with no choice but to learn on their own. Children faced a hard time when they were being assisted by family members who had limited knowledge of the subject at hand. Many students experienced an increase in schoolwork, which elevated their stress and anxiety levels. Those who were caregivers to their family members had to find a balance between their school and personal life. Not only can this affect their academic performance, but also take a toll on their mental health.

“Zoom” Fatigue

Over the course of their academic life, students have grown accustomed to a traditional classroom setting; one in which they attend classes throughout the day, communicate with their teachers and peers, have recess or lunch breaks and participate in extracurricular activities. Now, they no longer have the same routine that provided structure to their lives. Instead, it has become replaced with sitting behind a screen for what felt like an endless about of time. This can lead students to feel fatigued because they have to process a huge amount of information,  while also being exposed to a lot of screen time. As a result of this, their attention levels become hampered and they are left feeling mentally drained.

Lack of Employment Opportunities 

COVID-19 has caused serious drawbacks for the economy and job market. It has been a very difficult time period for youth who are looking for financial independence or work experience but have not successfully found employment. Some of them were laid off from work at the time of the pandemic or their job application processes were put on hold due to social distancing restrictions. University students were burdened with financial stress. Many lost their jobs and worried about paying tuition or rent or supporting their family members.

How Can Students’ Mental Health Be Improved?

In order to have a healthy mind, it is necessary to have a healthy body as well. One of the steps that students can take towards improving their mental wellbeing is by practicing a healthy lifestyle. This can include eating well, staying hydrated, sleeping on time, and having physical activity. Breaks should be taken as well, whether that be in the form of quick walks, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. Students also need to learn how to prioritize themselves more through doing things that they genuinely enjoy such as, video chatting with friends, reading outside, or discovering new hobbies. Those who are dealing with a financial crisis should be given special aid,  including financial support or further assistance in finding employment. Lastly, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to invest in doing more research on mental health to educate teachers and empathize with students. Students deserve to be given full access to better mental health resources, including both online and in-person counseling that is available at all times. If these measures are actively taken, an overall improvement in the mental health of students can surely be seen over time.