Written by Sabrina Olivares, FL, USA
As time progresses, the awareness of mental health issues has become a reoccurring trend in multiple places around the world, specifically amongst the young population of today. We have shifted from a society that dehumanizes and ridicules those that suffer from mental illness
into one that offers a wide range of support and medications that help make life a little easier and relieve the daily stressors that torment the mentally ill.
Despite this seemingly growing notion of acceptance, the current events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have taken the world by storm, negatively impacting people everywhere not only from a physical standpoint but also from a mental and emotional one.
Because this global virus is not very well-known and even fatal in some cases, residents of several countries have been advised to quarantine themselves and follow standard safety procedures, such as wearing masks and washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, to prevent more outbreaks as hospitals pile up at full capacity with COVID-19 patients. So, what does this mean for students?
With school being a common site for socializing, the strict distancing rules have made it quite difficult for students to fully interact with other people besides family members as physical classroom settings turn into virtual meetings. This isolation has affected the mental health and well-being of students like never before considering the unusual circumstances and constant worry that comes with this long-lasting pandemic situation.
As found by a study conducted at a large public university in the United States, in which 195 students were interviewed with survey questions, an indication of increased stress and anxiety attributed to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak was noted. Besides decreased social interactions, factors such as the fear of losing a loved one, difficulty in concentrating and lack of motivation, disruptions in habitual sleeping patterns, and increasing concerns on academic performance have all resulted in a mental health crisis.
Now consider the fact that these are college students but how about when high school, middle school, or even elementary students are put into the equation? This virus will have completely changed the structure of society with generations to come, making it even more important to advocate for mental health.
Being a high school student from an institution in Florida, I was able to virtually connect with my peers and ask each of them “what would you need to support your mental health during this time?”. I received a similar response over and over again: someone to listen to me. Having a voice and having someone to hear that voice has become a necessity but the problem lies in what could be done to allow these students to speak on these personal mental struggles. An idea came to my mind immediately.
Content creation has become one of the most influential forms of spreading news in modern times. The power that the media holds has altered aspects of everyday life as seen with politics, workplace, and home life. Online social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have played a huge role in the lives of young people all over the world, especially teens in the United States. My proposal would be to design a virtual mental health program available in schools everywhere, starting with my Florida school.
The plan is to allow students to write short stories, with the option of submitting stories anonymously, to teachers that will pass on these stories to a student group that will evaluate and edit the submissions with the guidance counselors to be certain that the content produced is appropriate. These short stories will originate from the mind of students that feel the need to speak on the topic of the mental struggles they are having to tolerate.
These short stories, which should be posted on the school’s social media platform or website, will then hopefully be transformed into videos, podcasts, and public speeches to appeal to a wider audience. In addition to these short story creations, hosting virtual meetings where students are able to talk to each other or participate in entertaining activities such as movie nights or scribble games should be a normal occurrence. This way students will be able to get to know each other and possibly make new friends despite the current situation.
To implement this into the school system, principal approvable is essential and once approvable is granted, I would gather a group of students that is beyond excited for this mission to get together with teachers and guidance counselors that are willing to advocate and become sponsors for this program. From that moment on, a small group of students will gradually grow larger as more people feel comfortable enough to speak up and vent about struggles they have been suppressing or ignoring.
No matter what program is in place, giving students an outlet during this time that is centered around improving their mental health will change their perceptions about the education system as a whole, seeing as school officials are understanding of everything that has been going on and are trying to help the best way they know how to. Remember that, at the end of the day, everyone wants a chance to be heard.
- Jul 26, 2. (n.d.). The Impact of Social Media: Is it Irreplaceable? Retrieved November 30,
- Son1, C., Hegde1, S., Smith1, A., Wang1, X., Sasangohar1, F., 1Department of Industrial
and Systems Engineering, . . . Authors..., L. (n.d.). Effects of COVID-19 on College
Students' Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study. Retrieved
November 30, 2020, from https://www.jmir.org/2020/9/e21279/