COVID-19 and Student Well-Being: Stress and Mental Health during Return-to-School

Anjali Raghuwanshi

Author:

Table of contents


Abbreviations 

Introduction 

COVID-19's  impact on people's livelihoods, health, and food systems 

Challenges  in front of the students during lockdown 

Back to  school phase challenges 

Conclusion 


Abbreviations

online

onl.

difficult

diff.

everyone

eve.

study

st.

Introduction

Mental health diff.ies are the most significant hindrance to academic performance. Mental illness can have an impact on students' motivation, attentiveness, and social relationships, all of which are important variables in their success in higher education. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health's 2019 Annual Report, anxiety remains the most common problem (62.7 percent of 82,685 respondents) among students who completed the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms, and clinicians report that anxiety remains the most common diagnosis of students who seek services at university counselling. Over the last eight years, Texas A&M University has observed an increase in the number of students seeking services for anxiety disorders, mirroring a nationwide trend. In 2018, slightly more than half of students cited anxiety as the primary reason for seeking help. Despite the growing need for mental health care services at postsecondary institutions, an alarmingly tiny proportion of students who commit suicide contact their institution counselling facilities, possibly due to the stigma associated with mental health. Such negative stigma associated with mental health diagnosis and therapy has been linked to lower adherence to treatment and even early treatment discontinuation.

The COVID-19 epidemic has pushed the mental health of various impacted people to the forefront. It is well understood that the presence of epidemics exacerbates or produces new stressors, such as dread and worry for oneself or loved ones, restrictions on physical movement and social events due to quarantine, and abrupt and extreme lifestyle changes. Stressors such as infection worries, dissatisfaction, boredom, insufficient resources, insufficient information, financial loss, and stigma were identified in a recent assessment of virus outbreaks and pandemics. Much of the existing st. on the psychological effects of COVID-19 has come from the first hotspots in China. Although various studies have been conducted to analyse mental health diff.ies during epidemics, the majority of them have concentrated on health personnel, patients, children, and the general community. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 47 percent of those sheltering in place reported poorer mental health effects as a result of worry or stress due to COVID-19. Nelson et al discovered increased levels of anxiety and depression symptoms in general population samples from North America and Europe. However, with the exception of a few studies, most notably from China, there is scant evidence of the current pandemic's psychological or mental health consequences on students, who are known to be a critical population. Although the outcomes of these research thus far point to an increase in mental health disorders among college students, the underlying factors may not be applicable to populations in other nations. As several recent correspondences have shown, there is an urgent need to analyse the consequences of the present pandemic on the mental health and well-being of students.

COVID-19's impact on people's livelihoods, health, and food systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive loss of human life around the world, posing an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems, and the workplace. The pandemic's economic and social impact is devastating: tens of millions of people are in danger of falling into deep poverty, and the number of undernourished people, which is presently estimated at almost 690 million, might rise by up to 132 million by the end of the year.

Millions of businesses are facing extinction. Almost half of the world's 3.3 billion workforce is at risk of losing their jobs. Workers in the informal economy are particularly vulnerable because the majority lack social security, access to decent health care, and productive assets. Many people are unable to feed themselves and their family during lockdowns because they lack the means to earn a living. For most people, no money equals no food, or at best, less food that is less healthy.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the whole food chain, exposing its frailty. Border shutdowns, restrictions on trade, and confinement measures have made it diff. for farmers to access markets, including to buy inputs and sell their produce, and for agricultural workers to harvest crops, disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe, and diverse diets. The pandemic has wrecked jobs and put millions of people's lives in jeopardy. As breadwinners lose their jobs, become ill, or die, millions of women and men's food security and nutrition are jeopardised, with those in low-income nations, particularly the most marginalised populations, such as small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples, bearing the brunt of the burden.

Millions of agricultural labourers, both wages and self-employed, experience high levels of working poverty, malnutrition, and poor health on a regular basis, as well as a lack of safety and labour protection, as well as other forms of abuse, while feeding the world. With poor and irregular salaries and a lack of social support, many are compelled to continue working, frequently in hazardous situations, exposing themselves and their families to further risks. Furthermore, when faced with income loss, individuals may resort to negative coping techniques such as distressed asset sales, predatory lending, or child labour. Migrant agricultural labourers are particularly vulnerable because they encounter risks in their transportation, working, and living conditions and struggle to get government-provided assistance. It will be critical to save lives and sustain public health, livelihoods, and food security by providing greater salaries and protection to all agri-food workers, from primary growers to those involved in food processing, transportation, and retail, including street food vendors.

Food security, public health, and employment and labour issues, particularly worker health and safety, all intersect during the COVID-19 crisis. The human dimension of the problem will need adherence to workplace safety and health measures, as well as providing access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries. Immediate and focused action to save lives and livelihoods should include expanding social protection to encompass universal health coverage and financial support for the most vulnerable. Employees in the informal economy, as well as those in poorly protected and low-paying employment, such as youth, older workers, and migrants, are among them. Women, who are over-represented in low-wage jobs and care duties, must be given special consideration. Cash transfers, child allowances and healthy school meals, housing and food relief measures, employment retention and recovery assistance, and financial relief for businesses, especially micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, are all critical. It is critical that governments collaborate closely with employers and workers when creating and implementing such measures.

Countries that are currently coping with humanitarian crises or emergencies are more vulnerable to the consequences of COVID-19. It is vital to respond quickly to the epidemic while also ensuring that humanitarian and recovery aid reaches those in most need.

Challenges in front of the students during lockdown

The sudden shift to onl. in the Summer semester demonstrated that existing imbalances in higher education had only worsened and that it will affect various student groups differently. Students at residential institutions were unexpectedly instructed to pack their belongings and leave the campus they had come to call home, sometimes without even saying goodbye to their friends and professors who had played an important role in their development and feeling of community. However, for many students who were homeless, there was either no safe house to return to or no home at all. Even if students had somewhere else to go when resident halls closed, many lacked the resources to depart at a moment's notice or have a peaceful, private st. room after they returned home. The sudden departure from resident halls in March raised issues of reimbursements for students who left early, as well as questions about how to shelter vulnerable students.

Moreover, the change to onl. left students who were already facing food hardship without the means to eat. Physical locations such as food pantries and the ability to attend events to obtain a meal were no longer available. Many of the country's most vulnerable students were left without one or more of their most basic requirements as a result of campus closures, making it almost hard for them to complete their education and compounding concerns of food and housing instability for low-income students.

The epidemic also revealed how many students lacked access to inexpensive and dependable connectivity for their education. Prior to the pandemic, low-income and students of colour frequently depended on university facilities to finish their education, such as libraries, computer laboratories, and campus wi-fi, but these vital tools were lost when schools were closed. Too many minority groups, as well as low-income, rural, and Native students, failed to even enter into class due to inequitable internet access. Similarly, many of these students lacked laptops and cameras to help them with their studies and had to rely on their smartphones instead. Institutions made heroic attempts to provide computers and hotspots to these students, and many policy solutions were proposed, but many students found it impossible to continue in school remotely.

During the epidemic, students with disabilities also had diff.y getting their needs fulfilled. Many faculty members did not take legally mandated steps to ensure accessibility for students with impairments throughout the shift to onl., such as adding closed captioning, alternate language for pictures, or recording lectures. Whereas some staff members went above and beyond to guarantee accessibility for students with special needs, it was an afterthought for far too many, putting a college at danger of a lawsuit.

The epidemic highlighted how basic requirements like the internet, food, housing, and access are critical for students across the country to be able to pursue higher education. This absence has further compounded the diff.ies that students of colour and low-income students face in higher education. These unmet basic necessities will have a substantial impact on students' educational paths and, eventually, their lives.

Another prevalent topic in higher education during the COVID-19 epidemic was how college administrators, professors, and students saw the move to onl. learning differently. Many university administrators saw the Spring shift to onl. as a positive experience, believing that they transitioned swiftly and provided their best effort. This is correct - in just a few days, faculty made the switch to delivering course content onl. with little to no training. Moreover, several schools aggressively organised training throughout the summer months to prepare teachers for the problems that a full semester of onl. learning would entail. Many instructors developed confidence in their ability to teach a whole semester onl., but many others struggled. One college administrator told us that the transition to onl. was "manageable" for teachers who had never taught onl. before. Despite these attempts, the shift to onl. learning was largely seen as a failure by students.

Back to school phase challenges

During the COVID-19 epidemic, several early care and education programmes remained open to offer required care. However, for many families, the epidemic meant that their children had to stay at home. More programmes and institutions for in-person learning are coming up, which implies that more youngsters will be away from home after a long holiday.

The biggest challenge in front of eve.is changing their daily routine. Students to workers, eve.has adapted to the onl. routine. Leaving one's comfort zone is the most diff. work of all. Many students wake up at the end time and join onl. classes from their bed. Then they either st. and go back to sleep. In this onl. They can have their meals anytime they want, they can sleep anytime they want and they don’t need to wear a uniform because they are behind the camera and not in front of their teacher so they can wear whatever they want. Like in school, they don’t need to sit quietly or focused or in discipline because no one is watching them. Many students even play games or do other stuff during classes. Now since schools and colleges are reopening, they need to wake up early, get ready and then need to sit quietly, focused and disciplined at one place that too in uniform.

I hope eve.agrees that in this lockdown we unintentionally made an inner circle. We are far away from social life and now the real diff.y is socializing. COVID-19 normalised being alone. And now it’s a part of our peaceful or not so peaceful life. Earlier we used to meet people on weekends for hours but now what we have is virtual meetings that basically boost no interest like before. st.ing in onl. class means st.ing alone, and students are used to it now. Few of them ask questions or doubts that too rarely. Maybe because of shyness or laziness there is no interaction between students. Now when the classes will occur physically, it will be really diff. for them to cooperate or even talk to each other or with teachers. Going to school again after COVID-19 will feel somewhere like the first time.

Students who st. away from their home and stay in hostels with their family due to COVID-19. Now when school will reopen they need to leave their home again. Going away from parents in this time of pandemic will be really challenging for both parents as well as students for safety concerns.

Changing your daily schedule needs so much mental change. Firstly one needs to mentally accept the change which can be easy for some but diff. for many. We are now used to our routines. Changing it will be diff. for all of us. During this lockdown, everyone’s schedule has changed. eve.is not as mentally strong as they used to be. I have read in the news many times that people, mostly students, are getting depressed for being lonely or being alone or being in a room since lockdown started. For students who are suffering or going through these conditions, it will be good for some because they can get over these. But some can find it more depressing to interact or be in a public place.

Due to this pandemic, many people died, these people could be your friends or classmates or colleagues or their closed ones. Reopening will see a lot of changes, it can be your missing friend with whom you used to be so close, or your friend’s parents or family losing whom he or she changed or didn’t overcome from it yet, or even it can be your teacher who was one of your favorites. Losing someone who is an important person for you changes you alot. This will lead students to lose their interest or to overthink or maybe to lose even those who are there because of memories or sadness because no one likes to be a person who is always sad or lost in the past.

Conclusion

Reopening of schools will be really changing for students as well as teachers. Both will have their own problems and health issues either physical or mental. It will be diff. to adjust in a “new normal” scenario. The above mentioned facts will cause a lot of problems to adapt to a new environment. Students will need support from their teachers and fellow classmates to overcome their fear, mental stress and hesitation. Both student and teacher need to be understanding. Maybe it won’t be easy for a teacher to teach as before but it would not be easy for a student to focus as before. A teacher can help students by making the environment more healthy, stress free and playful which can open up students to get away from their hesitation or anxiety.

Anjali Raghuwanshi