Students mental health journey over the past year


Photo by Emma Saltzman

WJ´s mental health club Sources of Strength officers.

It’s hard to remember what life was like before March 13: hanging out with friends and family, going out to restaurants, going to school — these things were considered normal. Most people don’t know how they were once able to go to the grocery store without a mask anymore. The world has changed through this pandemic; people have changed. Teenagers who are supposed to be “having the time of their lives” are isolated in their rooms, scrolling mindlessly through their phones. Seniors spent the majority of their senior year by themselves, feeling like something was stripped out from under them; juniors have been stressing about standardized tests and college, believing that they are facing the whole world alone. Sophomores face higher stress levels as their workload increases; freshmen who looked forward to their high school experience feel like they don’t know any of their new classmates, their faces hidden behind a black screen.

Covid-19 had a major impact on students’ mental health over the past year, sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes both. All around the world, high school students are feeling lonely and isolated, not quite understanding why things are the way they are. Anxiety, depression, lack of motivation and low self-esteem have all increased since the pandemic began. Life has been hard, and many students’ mental health have suffered.

“I lost touch with friends I normally talk to, my grades dropped by a considerable amount, I was barely finding the motivation to get anything done despite being busy all of the time. The hardest part is having to smile through it all and put on a face that says everything is ok, after all, you don’t want to add people worrying about you to the list,” junior Grant Mateo said .

Yet, it’s not all terrible. Students have been able to use the extra time at home to focus on themselves and prioritize self-care. The year has also been full of opportunities for growth for students, a time to learn more about themselves and focus on what is important to them.

“Lockdown has actually allowed me to focus on myself and to be calm and at peace,” senior Arno Amalyan said.

A large number of high school students watched an excessive amount of TV shows and movies this past year, using it as a way to escape life for a little while. Television provides a window into how the world used to be: no masks, traditional high school events, family reunions, vacations and more. These shows and movies let teenagers live vicariously through the characters, allowing them a taste of the past. But when the story ends, the window is shut; life goes back to the pandemic reality that everyone knows all too well. The question of the world ever returning to normal ran its course a long time ago, and now it seems like people are simply running out of patience. It’s easy to get lost in the repetitiveness of each day, it’s easy to feel alone and it’s easy to forget that this won’t go on forever.

“I’ve felt all alone in online school this year, spending hours sitting in the same place and listening to directions,” senior Kantemir Nasirov said.

Challenge is a part of life. It can be hard and painful in the moment, but it can also be an opportunity for growth. Many students have found that the past year offered them a chance to reflect on their life and make changes that they wouldn’t have otherwise made. Some decided to break off negative relationships, some learned the importance of self-love and some learned that it’s okay to feel sad.

“During the past year, I learned so much and I’m thankful for that. All the things that I’ve gone through will be close to my heart because I know how much I grew and how far I got,” senior Rakeb Hailemariam said.

Throughout this pandemic, everyone has gone through good days and bad days, sometimes more bad than good. Now, one year after it all began, the world is looking a bit brighter with more and more vaccines being distributed every day. But it’s still not the same as it once was and it most likely won’t be for a while. When looking back on the last year of the pandemic, every person will have something different to say. Some might say that their mental health got better, while others say that theirs went down-hill. No one had an identical experience, but whether they describe it as good or bad, it was their own journey.

“It’s important to process everything that is going on in the world right now because even though we are all going through our own experiences and problems, we can get through them together,” sophomore Sophia Yodis said.