For the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting our lives in unprecedented ways. As schools across the country transitioned to virtual learning environments this year, students, teachers, and parents all had to develop new strategies to accomplish everyday tasks.
Teachers and parents understand the many ways this pandemic has affected students’ academic lives. But what about students’ mental health? Social scientists are warning that the coronavirus pandemic may take a toll on mental health for months or even years to come.
When school resumes in the fall, students’ mental health may be affected. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Increased anxiety or paranoia. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown can increase symptoms of anxiety. Students may show signs of increased anxiety about health or safety-related issues.
- Stress. Social isolation raises the stress hormone Cortisol in our systems, which can lead to impaired cognitive performance and a compromised immune system. Stressed students may be more distracted or emotionally volatile.
- Irritability. A review of 24 studies of quarantine during disease found that most reported negative psychological effects, including PTSD symptoms, confusion and anger. If you notice abrupt mood changes or irritability in your children or students, it could be related to the pandemic.
- Lethargy or fatigue. Grief, fear, uncertainty, and constantly adapting to new information can tax the nervous system and zap our mental and emotional energy. Students may tire more easily or have a hard time focusing on detail-oriented work.
- Depression. Social rhythm reinforcers—such as going to school or social events—help regulate and maintain our moods. If students experience a change to their regular summer routine — such as canceled clubs or sports leagues—it may contribute to a depressive state.
The 2020 school year will likely be affected by the coronavirus pandemic on many levels, and students may behave differently. Recognizing mental and emotional changes in your students and children is the first step toward effectively addressing them.