Isolation, something that stands in contrast to teenagers’ normal social behaviors, has taken place almost everywhere in the world. Whether it is social distancing or staying at home, isolation plays a big role in mental health.
Human contact helps the brain develop. When that contact is cut off, that is considered social isolation. Normally, social isolation roots in anxiety, depression, or other mental challenges. But in a scenario like quarantine, social isolation can cause those symptoms instead of growing from them.
Not going to school and not physically being there with teachers can have an impact on the students’ learning, but not going out and seeing friends also has an impact on students’ mental health.
Jessica Cooper (’21) said, “Not seeing people is always going to make a big difference. I’m lucky enough that I have friends who have been quarantined from most people, so I am still able to see them, but that doesn’t really help the school situation, so it is still pretty difficult to get things done when you’re not actually seeing your teachers.”
Even for those with family to quarantine with, isolation can still negatively impact mental health as well. Isolation with family could cause stress from the lack of privacy and personal time. Doing school at home can also be troublesome due to distractions within the household.
Before COVID-19, there was a noticeable increase in mental health problems involving students. That being said, there has been a sizable difference to the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic began to take a toll on the world.
Pedro Linsenmeyer, the interventionist at MHS said, “Discouragement with not being in person, with friendships, and then the motivation has been quite noticeable. It seems like a lot of teens do like to be at school in the physical classroom, not everybody of course. They really appreciate learning in the classroom [and] conversing with other students.”
During the initial stages of quarantine and isolation last spring, there was a study on students’ mental health by Active Minds that shows the immense increase of mental health issues.
“Unsurprisingly, mental health has worsened over the course of the pandemic,” read the study. “Almost 75% of respondents reported their mental health has worsened, worsened somewhat, or worsened significantly since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Over the course of several months, 78 percent of respondents noticed their own mental health worsening, and 66.89 percent of respondents noticed an increase in helping others with their struggles.
Isolation can lead to many different implications of mental health such as stress and less motivation. With the combination of online schooling and isolation from activities like school events and clubs, stress can easily have an impact on students and a lack of motivation.
15-year-old Kaden Piel from Merino, Colorado wrote a letter to Governor Jared Polis about his concerns for his community.
“I felt that kids needed activities and that includes both sports and clubs… I received the sad news that a kid just 20 minutes from us had taken his own life. That would be the eighth suicide in our region,” his letter said.
Stress can occur in students when school work is overbearing, and now students can’t talk to their teachers face-to-face; instead, they have to email them. During a normal school year, students have after-school activities to look forward to, but those activities have been replaced with school work and isolation during this pandemic. With the workload of homework and tests, it can be difficult to find a real motivation to get through it all.
As Jessica Cooper (‘21) said, “I’m personally a very anxious person, but I’ve noticed rather than being anxious about things, motivation has been lacking.”
Finding motivation and relieving stress can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to do it on your own. Pedro Linsenmeyer shared a few tips on what may help struggling students.
“I think some basics are getting a good night sleep, we know that a full night sleep charges our battery. Sleep deprivation causes a number of difficult situations with our thinking, our moods. Eating well, drinking water, avoiding too much sugar, being careful with screen time, being creative with connecting with others. Another important thing I want to encourage in this interview is utilizing our sources of strength, you may have seen that wheel around the school. What are those sources of strengths in our own lives that we can keep working on whether it’s positive friendships we have with people, healthy activities that we continue to do, reaching out to mentors, staying in a space of gratitude.”
Solutions to the stress and lack of motivation could be sleeping well, eating well, drinking water, or even getting away from the screens now and then.
It is important to take into account your mental health and where you stand. It’s the little things that make a big difference.