• Aayush Gandhi

COVID-19 Mental Health Impacts


I’m writing this article from the confines of my room, a solitary place from where I have only emerged for meals like some sort of hibernating creature. I’m sure that many of you can relate to this experience, considering that most countries have enforced lockdown procedures and quarantines. Most people’s minds are busy considering the implications of coronavirus, and rightly so. Social distancing works and you should continue to follow these procedures and keep yourself updated on changes in the situation. However, ensuring that your mental health remains just as healthy as your body is very important in these times. We live in a world where fear is gripping the population, where people are risking their lives to save those in the throes of the disease, where governments are scrambling to find some way to delay the spread of the virus. These are trying times and, as a result, your mental health can be affected.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that COVID-19 has indirectly caused a plethora of questions to spring up within the mind of a student. For example, many college applicants have not taken their standardized tests, such as the SAT. Others may be wondering what will happen to their summer programs or sports. What about your volunteer hours or your internships? Even worse, what about prom!?!? I know that these questions, along with a host of others, must be floating in the subconscious of your mind. These questions are only natural during uncertain times and the answers are often complex ones. However, I can offer some reassurance: school officials are not cold and heartless (although it may seem so). They recognize that this move is a transition for the schools, the colleges, and the students. In that vein, the education committees will definitely take the novel situation, faced by millions of students across the country, into account. It may not be much of a guarantee, but I ask you to have faith in the education system and just keep doing your very best to get to where you want to be.

Another big part of the current crisis is that many of us may be feeling lonely without our friends. Being cooped up in a single location without much exposure to other people (outside of your family) is not the best for your mental health. It is important to still talk to your school friends and other people outside of your family. If you are feeling lonely, try talking to your friends by calling them via phone or through video calls. If possible, try to organize online activities that everyone can participate in. Recently, I had the opportunity to join in in a Discord call, where one person shared their screen and we all watched John Wick. Activities like these can help you feel more connected with your friends, so that, even though you may not be together physically, you can still be together online.

A defining aspect of this pandemic has been the shift to online education. Education has gone through an enormous upheaval as a result of this pandemic and many schools are switching to online learning. Unfortunately, when you’re cooped up inside and not restricted to a schedule, things begin to get a lot more boring. On the first day of online learning, I woke up at six in the morning and was ready to learn by seven. I had a notebook ready, Google Classroom open, joined the Zoom call, etc. Now, I wake up at eight AM in a hoodie and groggily go through the day’s work with coffee by my side. Suffice it to say, this situation has not aged well. However, working online has changed the entire process of learning for me. I am actually able to do projects on my own time, something which I feel a lot of students can relate to. In terms of productivity, I believe my productivity has gone up, considering the amount of work I’m able to finish by the end of the day. My biggest tips for productivity are making a list of tasks to complete. However, don’t go overboard and try to institute world peace by Saturday afternoon. Just give yourself a basic list of things you hope to get done and try your best to finish them. If you do, congratulations, you made it! If you don’t, don’t despair, just try harder to stay focused and you’ll get them next time!

A special note for all those feeling like they are being stifled at home: you are not alone, I feel your pain as well. Hundreds of kids are forced to go and stay in their homes, even though their family situation may not be the best. Several colleges have closed their dorms, forcing students to return home. This could cause a lot of problems for students that are LGBTQIA+ (but not accepted by their parents), victims of abuse, and those who don’t have a good relationship with their parents. My heart goes out to all of these students. It’s very hard being in a terrible home situation, feeling like you’re alone constantly. One thing to try is to take your mind off the issues by listening to music, reading a book, talking to a friend, or doing anything that can help relax you. You could also try talking to a trusted friend or adult. Remember that you are loved and that you deserve happiness, just as much as the next person. Even though the situation may not seem like the best as of now, it will change. It’s so much easier said than done, and I know you already are doing this, but when you can keep doing your best to move through the days and find joy in the little things. Know that you are valid, that you are loved, that you deserve to exist, and that you are beautiful.

Last but not least, to all those facing racism and discrimination due to misguided fears over the origins of the coronavirus, you are not to blame for this crisis. This country is going through a lot right now, but it doesn’t excuse any sort of racism. Being Asian doesn’t mean that you will automatically have the virus or that you will spread the virus to those whom you come into contact with. You do not deserve any of the racism that may be directed towards you. In times like these, a country needs to come together, not break apart further. When facing a storm, unity is the best policy and we need to be united in this time of need.

A final note of thanks to all our superb healthcare workers, grocery store and fast food workers, volunteers, and others on the frontlines. You guys are the best and you deserve all the respect and thanks in the world. As the pandemic grows, we are likely to experience a lot of things that there has not been a precedent for. Education will change, health policies will change, the economy will change. Right now, we are living through a historic time period. Although that may seem even scarier, it puts our existence into perspective. The eyes of the future are on us right now and they will see how we reacted. Did we work to fight this emerging threat, banding together to ensure that we weathered the storm or did we fall prey to xenophobia, homophobia, and other bigoted beliefs? Did we push the boundaries of technology and science to benefit mankind or did we reject the research of experts? The future will directly be shaped by the actions we take now. It is up to us to determine whether that change will benefit us or push us backward.

To all readers, please follow the social distancing guidelines and stay safe. Take care of your health, mental and physical, and make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones.

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