COVID-19 has completely transformed the world seemingly overnight. Business and restaurants have closed, schools have shut down and people have been told to stay home and practice social distancing. It is safe to say the Coronavirus has flipped the world on its head and with the many changes to our society, some have begun to wonder how the virus will affect mental health.
From a student’s perspective, the transition to online learning isn’t solely impacting education; it has affected the mental health of many. As Kansas became the 22nd state to issue a stay-at-home order, many fear that the lack of human interaction will cause negative effects on mental health, especially for students who struggle with depression.
Active Minds Club member Faith Kim shares how social distancing can have various impacts.
“Quarantine is different for everyone, and it has made a drastic impact on our everyday lives,” Kim said. “It’s lonely, boring and stressful to manage work and school at home. Sometimes, people dealing with mental health issues can’t adjust well with staying at home, especially staying at home alone. Other times, it can be a good thing to unplug from the world and to refine ourselves.”
The Active Minds club is limited in what it can do to help students, however they have remained very active on social media during the lockdown. With plans to host online meetings via Zoom, the club still maintains their message: mental health matters anywhere, anytime and always.
As students are having to become more independent with their learning, procrastination is becoming a stressor for many. Student Ashley Heimann tries to limit putting assignments off as much as possible.
“I try to do stuff earlier in the day,” Heimann said. “If I put everything aside and avoid distracting myself and focus, I tend to get a lot of work done. I try to start working at 8 a.m. at the latest and try to get my [work] done before 10 a.m. or at least make a head start for it.”
Procrastinating is only the tip of the iceberg for problems that students are currently facing. The decrease in motivation to finish the school year is also becoming a difficult struggle. Prior to the college switching to online classes, Megan McDonald attended two on-campus classes and two online. For her, the switch hasn’t been extremely difficult, but she has encountered some challenges.
“It’s stressful thinking about how I’m going to finish out the school year,” McDonald said. “I’m afraid that my grades are going to drop because I’m not getting the type of learning that I wanted for certain classes. [I’m someone] who needs face-to-face interaction for math or else I can’t concentrate. I have ADHD so I [struggle with] being able to sit and concentrate on something and learn it over a screen.”
This stress has manifested itself into a decline in motivation to do anything productive.
“[My motivation] has been so low lately,” McDonald said. “Before, I would go to school and then the gym, and then I would do my homework and go to work. Now, I can’t do any of that.”
The lack of social interaction makes it easy to become closed off and isolated from the outside world. A study published by the American Psychological Association states that isolation from the outside world can have a negative impact on an individual’s mental and physical health. Some effects include depression, poor sleep quality and increased anxiety.
To combat this, the college has made an effort to push counseling services which are now being offered via Zoom. Student Lauren Hunter believes that communication is key when it comes to dealing with mental health.
“I think you need to be upfront about everything you’re feeling,” Hunter said. “I know that JCCC has sent out different mental health services for people to use and I think that people should take advantage of that. It’s easy to shut down completely and not tell anybody about how you’re feeling, but at school, you’re forced to interact with people, and now we don’t have that. There needs to be more communication between everybody or else I don’t think people aren’t going to get through this well.”
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the situation at hand and it is evident that the switch has affected and will continue to impact everyone. However, there are still ways to manage a positive mindset and prioritize mental health, even while stuck at home.
“There are a variety of ways to remain positive and manage your mental health at home,” Kim said. “Have your mental health physician on speed dial if you are struggling. Taking walks outside and getting exercise are great ways to release endorphins and relieve stress. Stay in contact with friends and family that you don’t live with online, but if you are living with people, spend quality time with them. Although the world is dealing with a lot of turmoil and fear these past months, the best thing we can do is find joy in the little things.”
The most common way that people have been staying connected is through social media. Apps like Snapchat, Twitter and FaceTime have becoming increasingly popular during the pandemic.
“I’ve been staying connected with everyone through text,” McDonald said. “I went through my contacts and texted people that I haven’t talked to in a long time. I’ll FaceTime people every now and then, but I’ve seen a lot of presence on social media. Everyone’s been posting more so I talk to some people that way.”
As COVID-19 continue to spread, so do the side-effects that come with trying to eliminate the virus. There is no way for anyone to fully predict what life will be like after this is over, and only time will tell how it has affected society.
“Reach out to someone,” McDonald said. “It’s definitely hitting hard for some people more than others, but we’re all struggling with feeling isolated and feeling alone, so just reach out and talk to your friends. Call somebody if you need to, whatever it is that you have to do to get through this.”
For more information on how to take care of yourself and others visit the Counseling section under the Student Resources page to get in contact with a counselor or for resources dealing with mental health.