Student Stories: How Distant Learning Is Affecting The Mental Health Of Youth
“Not only has remote learning created learning difficulties for many students, but it has stripped them of the opportunity to be.” — KS
Learning online has created a critical concern for all students, including their physical and mental health, safety and security, and for many kids—worries about their next meal. Distance learning has especially taken its toll on the mental health of high school age students.
Below is a story from a young high school student who shared her experience about learning online, and the toll it’s taken on the mental health of so many youth.
A student walks in the hallway with her fellow peers and teachers, smiling at familiar faces, and eventually, she rushes to class before the late bell.
Sit down, notes out. Sighing as her classmates as she gazes at the clock, knowing time wouldn’t move any faster.
Life was seemingly boring, and at lunch, she made jokes about how much she disliked school. Up until March of 2020, this routine was normalcy—a gift many students took for granted.
Never did it come across one’s mind that this special experience of high school would be taken from us.
Stripped away—poof and gone, just like the wave of a magic wand. Everything we seemingly knew was now gone. Suddenly, we were thrown into the desk chair of our bedrooms, and classes were now only confined to a small computer screen.
“It was a change nobody anticipated, so I was really unprepared for it,” said an anonymous student.
This Lifestyle Is What They Call Online Learning
Something so hidden in high school but yet so present is the mental health of the student body.
In general, attending school creates anything as small as stress to as severe as depression; the trigger behind it ranges from many factors. Oftentimes, however, many students stay silent; they are afraid to reach out for help.
Serious Concerns About Students’ Mental Health
As online learning began, mental health concerns became progressively more prevalent.
In fact, in an article released in October of 2020 by the World Health Organization, 45% of students facing mental health issues feel that they have nobody to talk to since the switch to online learning.
While many students saw learning online as an opportunity to relax from academics, friendship struggles, and grading—staying home has established a bigger form of stress in their lives.
At first, students celebrated this change in setting. Mental health seemingly improved as a break from school occurred. “There was an initial dip in anxiety because kids got to avoid their triggers, but that was short-lived,” said certified psychologist A.G.
However, as mentioned previously by A.G., soon, the difficulties of e-learning have caught up to students. The reestablishment of grading, heavy workload, and little social interaction seemed to make the biggest changes for students working from home.
“Now, my home has become the place where I experience stressors about school, my social life, and my future all at once, and that’s just not the healthiest environment for any teenager,” said an anonymous student.
It seems that this was widely represented by students, with over 62% feeling as if the transfer to online school had impacted their mental health; the majority seeing increases of stress, depression, as well as anxiety. (As reflected in a survey taken by 45 high school aged students at an anonymous school.)
As reflected by the data derived from students above, some of the biggest factors behind the strike of negative mental health differences included grading, schoolwork, and limitation in social interaction.
Along with the data provided by students, faculty were aware of different reasons that led to negative mental health during e-learning. Many areas were deeper than surface issues such as school in general.
“Students are still facing stress regarding classes, similar to what you would see in school. However, some of the main things they are anxious or sad about are changing,” stated a student counselor.
Counselor continues, “Students are sad about the things they are missing, such as homecoming or simply hanging out with their friends at school. And clubs, for example, were the things that made high school awesome and fun. With the recent change to online school, these aspects have been taken away from students, which creates nostalgia and sadness regarding what they are missing.”
These emotions have clearly made a mark on students participating in an online school. However, while mental health isn’t the biggest concern for others because the global pandemic itself is currently the main and centered issue, the limited health students receive regarding their feelings have brought more severe actions to the table.
The Opportunity To Be
A.G. states, “Now I see a huge uptick in depression, binge-watching disorders. I have more clients cutting and binge watching/gaming/eating. I have clients who used to love school completely who are now disengaged. And no one is sleeping.”
A student told me, “There’s not really an optimistic way to put it. We’re seniors, and we’ve spent the past three years looking forward to this year with stars in our eyes, and now we’ve lost all of the things that make it so exciting. It seems like there is less to look forward to, and frankly less to hold onto when we’re struggling; it’s all suddenly gone.”