Although we may be back at school, the coronavirus has still left many students relying on online classes to get the proper education they need. Unfortunately, this does not provide the proper amount of support necessary for students to truly thrive. What issues does online school bring to students’ mental health?
The stress and chaos in this world have certainly increased during the pandemic, to say the least. Many people have felt depressed or lost during what can only be described as a major historical event, but have nowhere to vent or get support due to limited travel and strict social distancing rules. Some people might even get counselling or therapy. According to a survey by the National Services of Drug Use and Health from 2012 to 2015, 35% of students received counselling only from school. Another survey from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California shows that 22% of students have completely lost mental help support during the pandemic, and 32% who now need services. Without school, this essential support gets significantly harder to obtain.
For marginalised groups, like people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community, maintaining a healthy mental state can get even more difficult. According to The Journal of School Health, people of color and low income households have reduced access to mental health services, putting even more stress on top of feelings of loss during the pandemic. This is due to the fact that parents are more likely to be essential workers, and the increased brutality and unrest. The Human Rights Campaign, a non profit LGBTQ+ advocacy group, says that closeted students, or in other words, students that have not revealed their sexuality yet, also have a difficult time during the pandemic. A huge component to this is having to spend more time around family members that might not be accepting. Keeping a secret as huge as your sexuality can be quite a burden on an adult, no less an adolescent.
Students also feel more unmotivated and unwilling to do schoolwork during the pandemic. This might be due to their lack of connection and routine that school provides to them. The act of discussing questions with classmates, working with a friend, and asking a teacher for help in-person is critical to student motivation. According to a study done on fifty middle school students by Allison Ryan, PhD., in Contemporary Educational Psychology, she found that those who felt like they had friends and caring teachers found the classwork more interesting, felt more engaged, and were more confident that they could complete their work. This proves to be hard to foster in online schooling. For example, a survey done by the University of Alberta showed that students found a sense of community decreasing during the pandemic. This can also stunt students’ emotional growth as they lack people to interact with.
Ultimately, online schooling, while a useful tool for learning during the pandemic, has many problems. Sadly, we cannot provide a good solution to these problems yet. We can only hope for the country to reopen and have the proper measures taken after the pandemic subsides.