What impact on mental health does online school have on the students in the San Francisco Bay Area?

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An Overview

In march of 2020, students across the San Francisco Bay Area were informed of a two week break due to a COVID-19 outbreak across the world. Unaware of what their future looked like, they rejoiced at the idea of a break from school, and expected a return by April. When online school first started, it was a safer alternative to keep learning from a distance. As May approached, the return date for students was being postponed, and high school seniors were told that they wouldn’t get an in-person high school graduation. The hopes of going back to school seemed dim, and students’ motivation declined. For a little over a year, students of all ages in the San Francisco Bay Area have experienced the challenges of doing school from home. The effects of online school have led to a loss of motivation, social isolation, and depression. While it had been permitted to return to school in September of 2020, the San Francisco teachers union and many other unions around our community have refused to go back in person. Without teachers, the reopening of schools is halted, and students have to endure further isolation.

A Chain Reaction

The numbers shows that the mental health crisis among students in the San Francisco Bay Area is caused by the social isolation of not having in person school. While schools are permitted to open, the teacher union has refused to go back due to health and safety protocols. They claim that until all the teachers are vaccinated, and the eligible students too, they will not return to school.  Without teachers in school, students continue online every day, isolated and unmotivated to continue learning. 

The impact on the students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Long term effects 

In our abnormal psychology class, we learnt about the long term effects of mental health, including the physical consequences of the illness. Dr. Shaker Saxena from Harvard School of Public Health, and a professor for the practice of global mental health courts remarks that in the United States, two thirds of young adults have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or another serious mental health problem. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools return to the way they were, Dr. Saxena explains that 10% of those who had symptoms will continue to have long lasting effects of their individual mental health issue.  Additionally, one thing many people do not realize is that mental illnesses can affect physical well being: “A 2014 study from Oxford University found that several mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years, the equivalent of heavy smoking.” (Tanner Clinic, January 2020)

My response

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important to understand that the loss of interaction and isolation has caused many mental health issues for students in the Bay Area. While staying at home is important, so is mental health. For each person there will be a different answer, but for the time being, seeing friends, possibly no more than 4 at a time, is a response to help some situations. Staying at home for an appropriate period in between social interactions is recommended, as well as wearing a mask. At a societal level, the best response would be for all schools around the Bay Area to open. Us as students don’t have much power over the school boards, however that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. By spreading information and bringing awareness to the mental health of students in our local communities, we can urge them to open as soon as possible. Sharing our experiences or your childs’ experiences will inspire others to rise up and organize. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I urge you to temporarily withhold from getting vaccinated if you are not an essential worker. Allowing adults who work with students, and eligible students to get vaccinated as soon as possible will allow schools to resume as soon as possible. 

Conclusion

As students, remember to look out for those around you as well as yourself. This pandemic has been hard on everyone, and support from others can help in ways someone doesn’t realize. Taking mental health days, seeing friends once in a while, and taking care of ourselves is important. A main goal is to allow students to go back to school, so that long term mental health issues don’t affect the future engines of society. Unfortunately, we can’t fix the damage that has already been done to these young minds, but avoiding many more months of online school is possible.

Comments

If you have any questions, comments, or reactions, I invite you to post them down below. Please feel free to introduce different ideas and start a conversation.  I also welcome you to submit this google form. Your identity will remain anonymous. 

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Works cited

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8 Comments

8 comments

  1. Hey Neela! Great job on your project. Thank you for sharing your ideas about how we can return to school quickly and safely. I appreciated your response which included urging people to allow for essential workers to get vaccinated. You are very lucky that you even have the option to get vaccinated. I live in Canada and our vaccine roll out is far behind yours so hopefully you will all be able to be vaccinated before the start of school next year!

    1. Hi Rubi! Thank you for your feedback! I wish you luck in the vaccine roll out and I hope you too will be able to start next year in person.

  2. Hi Neela! Your project is very insightful and I noticed that the pandemic has a similar effect on students in Bangladesh as well. I always knew that this sudden shift into online school would negatively impact the mental health of multiple students, but I never knew any exact statistics (especially the increase in the rates of suicidal children at Medical Centers). You chose an interesting topic that is also pretty controversial because many students want schools to open back up but at the same time, it comes with many risks. I believe that many students worldwide will be doing virtual school for much longer due to safety reasons. — I noticed that you covered what students can do, so my question is what can teachers and schools themselves do to help improve the mental health of students?

    1. Hi Fatmata! Thanks for your feedback! I think that holding school assemblies, and bringing awareness to the statistics is really important for schools to do. Stigma is also a large factor, reducing it as much as possible is also very important.

  3. Hey Neela!
    I really liked your project, I think its super interesting how you talked about the mental impact online school has in a specific area. I think its important to distinguish this because I assume different places with different cultures and pasts reacted to this obstacle differently. I thought your video was very well cone and your infographic was very educational and over all i thought you did a great job!

    1. Thank you!

  4. Great job Neela!

  5. Hi Neela, I really like your topic and found it very interesting. It’s sad to see that the San Francisco Bay Area students need to remain online while most schools globally have gone back to face-to-face learning due to changing school rules and keeping social distancing. I agree with you that it may have a long-lasting effect on their mental health as they get older (like you mentioned anxiety and depression) and that social isolation will make it harder for the students to form relationships once they return back to normal. Overall, you did a good job and I like your response to the matter.

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