By Hanna Yamato
Your alarm goes off at 8:15 am, but do you want to get up and attend first period? The simple answer is no. What even is the point anyway? Is today going to be any different?
With the omnipresent COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine orders, a vast majority of high school students across the country have had to learn to adjust to the new apparatus of online learning. While there are many advantages and drawbacks to this relatively new schooling system, many students have experienced a plethora of negative effects, ranging anywhere from feeling tired all the time, to not feeling any motivation to get their assignments done.
I, for one, was once excited for this new system of online learning—specifically toward the beginning of the year. Online learning, for me, meant more time to spend with family, more sleep, more time to do activities I enjoyed, and, most importantly, less stress. However, my outlook was completely shattered upon spending five months of online learning.
High school students, even pre-pandemic, were already more prone to mental illness. According to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 18.8% of high school students in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness, and 50% of lifetime mental illnesses begin as early as age 14. While there are more alarming sets of statistics released by the CDC (Center of Disease Control and Prevention), it is evident that the pandemic has intensified mental illness as a whole. With 74.9% of young adults having reported experiencing at least one baneful mental illness symptom, this issue that was once believed to only affect a small fraction of the population has become increasingly prevalent. To make matters worse, high school and college students can suffer from a high-functioning mental illness, where they oftentimes appear to be “normal” and are completely undetected to be struggling.
We spend about five to eight hours a day sitting at our desk with a laptop screen in front of us. This alone not only leads to physical exhaustion (i.e. zoom fatigue), but also makes focusing in classes difficult and makes us feel even more isolated. While school was already stressful pre-pandemic, having valuable social interactions and laughing with our friends during breaks made us have something to look forward to each day. Unfortunately with online learning, many students are in their rooms for hours with piles of schoolwork, while simultaneously worrying about the uncertainty of the outside world. Some thoughts that float through my mind include:
-Is my grandma okay, has she been vaccinated?
-When can I see my best friend again?
-Will I even have a graduation?
Online learning is like a never-ending repeated cycle of waking up, attending zoom classes, doing homework, and going to bed. Everyday feels exactly the same, with almost nothing to look forward to. The fact that many instructors assign more work with the belief that students have extra time does not serve as a benefit either. Most of us already have a lot of work on our shoulders, and barely get the recommended amount of sleep each night. With that being said, there should be more awareness surrounding the detrimental effects of academic burnout on teens’ mental health.
Although it is completely unknown when life will go back to normal, it is important to know that it is okay to not be okay. Many struggle with coming to terms with the state of their mental health and admitting that they are in fact: not fine. It is hard to admit your feelings when you know that there are people around you who could be doing much worse, like losing their loved ones due to COVID-19. However, this does not invalidate your mental health or self-care. Similarly, while it is important to keep up with your academics and extracurriculars, it is not worth sacrificing all of your sleep and mental health. Pretending that you are okay does not make your situation any better.
With about two months left in this semester, I know that it may seem like forever—but it is never too late to reflect on yourself and/or seek help. There is zero shame in asking for help, because at the end of the day, your well-being should come first.
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