The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic


According to mental-health related emergency department visits data from the CDC, from March to October of 2020, mental health-related visits among adolescents ages 12-17 rose 31% in comparison to the same time period in 2019. Students, teachers, counselors, and administrators alike have all felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most are in a rush to reclaim that normalcy that was once felt.

In regards to undergoing this transition to remote learning, Madelyn Thompson, senior, said, “Going from seeing everyone at school five days a week to just seeing them over a screen, has been really hard and I think it’s contributed a lot to feeling lonely.”

Not only are many feeling this loneliness, but stress and anxiety have been building as well. Kelly Corr, dean of students and activities director, said, “From my lens, the one thing in this pandemic that seems to spread faster than the virus itself, is the stress it creates.”

Raelynn Nissler, school counselor, has noticed that students have not been reaching out as much as they used to when they were in person at school. She emphasizes the importance of having someone to talk to, even if that someone is simply your dog. “Just a little [interaction] to boost your mood and to make you remember that there are people out there that are thinking of you and want to say hello to you,” said Nissler. 

Without social interaction, people start to lose these communication skills and become less comfortable with them. Julia Caley, assistant principal, said, “It has to do with the social-emotional part of being people.”

Not only have students been greatly affected, but teachers and staff have as well. “The phrase “in loco parentis” is commonly used when defining the role an educator has in our society. This term means: in the place of the parent,” said Corr. Because the staff members take on the role of protecting students mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically, not being able to truly check in with students negatively affects them.

However, a few students have noticed that certain teachers will make sure to include some social engagement that is not so strictly focused on academics. “In Mrs. Humphrey’s class, we obviously do math, but we also share stories with the class, and I think that gives us a little bit of normalcy in these unnormal times,” said Thompson. In meetings with students, Nissler often includes a more casual component to help boost a student’s spirits, including showing them her dog, chatting, and laughing together. 

The social distancing side to the pandemic in particular has also made a huge impact. “To be with kids and not be able to wrap your arms around them was really difficult. Sometimes that physical contact makes all the difference in the world,” said Caley. 

Despite the fact that many of the resources that are available are less known, the counseling team and administration have them in accessible places to students and families. When emailing a counselor, there is a remote learning guide included in each counselor’s signature, and a counseling newsletter is put out once a month. Additionally, each counselor is partnered up with an administrator in order to provide support to those who reach out, including Nissler and Caley who are partnered.

Administration is able to provide outside counseling referrals and different facilities that do counseling in order to help students. Some resources the school has access to are also in connection with the district, Douglas County police, and the state of Colorado. One positive when it comes to mental health is that “Mental health providers learned to do everything virtually,” said Nissler.

Basic self-care tips can also be extremely helpful. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and doing breathing exercises, are just a few examples you can do from home. “I try to get out of the house at least once a day because being out in the world is very helpful for me,” said Thompson. She also has a goal to do something she looks forward to everyday, whether it’s going to get food, going on a walk, or hanging out with friends. 

Bailey Williamson, sophomore, recommends staying off your phone and social media and instead finding a hobby, such as puzzle making and drawing, which she has found she enjoys. She considers herself a social butterfly and is excited to go back to playing basketball.

Infographic by Delaney Atchison

Nissler said, “Give grace to yourself. You’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days.” It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this, and there are resources and people out there who want to help you. 

Williamson said, “Everyone is loved and everyone matters. We have to start making a change. Not just one person but everybody in this community.”

Delaney Atchison, Editor in Chief