Coronavirus affects students’ mental health

Abhi Periyasamy, Ellen Noh, Harshal Lobana, and Tanya Singhal

A lot of Fairfax County students’ mental health have changed–some positively and some negatively–during the school closure that started on March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I would like RCMS students to know that we are here for them and we haven’t gone anywhere,” said Mrs. Jennifer Miley, the director of student services of RCMS.

A few students have seen improvement in their mental health.

“It’s way less stressful and there’s a lot of opportunity,” said a rising sophomore at Oakton High School who did not want to be named. 

Some students have found that during this coronavirus break, it gives them a lot of room for completing tasks at their own pace.

“Everything is much more flexible and you can enjoy yourself and work on personal projects,” said an Oakton High School freshman.

Other students have felt their mental health declining, due to being isolated from their friends, but they are finding ways to cope with the stress. 

“My teachers have been assigning lots of homework, but to deal with the stress, I play video games with my friends to take my mind off of school work and stay in touch during these tough times,” said a rising junior of Thomas Jefferson High School.

Some problems that RCMS counselors have been approached with are anxiety issues about school assignments, confusion about distance learning, and organizational support for online school.

“We encourage them to reach out,” Mrs. Miley added, ”even if it’s a small thing.” 

There are not many things people can do in their homes, and this could have some negative effects on teens’ mental health. 

“No hugs, hanging out, no going out for dinner can be hard,” said Mrs. Kelly Hagan, an RCMS math teacher. 

Mrs. Brenda Humphrey, a school counselor for RCMS, said, “It is challenging to be creative.”

At any time, teens can, and are encouraged to, let someone trusted know if they are struggling. 

There are student services or resources online and posted on the Rachel Carson Middle School website. Students may also email their counselors with questions or for advice. (See links below.)

Students said that they have been dealing with stress by relaxing, baking, getting help from family and friends, and exercising. They found that getting fresh air helped them to focus. Other things are trying meditation or yoga, developing a healthy eating habit, and getting lots of sleep.

Staff members also agree that exercising helps reduce their stress. Ms. Gina Fajardo, a counselor at Rachel Carson Middle School, said, “If I couldn’t go for a walk, it would be really hard because everyone needs fresh air.”

She finds that socializing with her friends via text and Houseparty, a virtual app where you can interact face-to-face, have helped her stay in touch.

A skill that Ms. Fajardo and some students have improved on during quarantine is baking.

“Quarantine has made me into a little baker. I’ve baked an apple cake and chocolate chip cookies. I’ve also cooked some vegan pasta,” Ms. Fajardo said.

She has been receiving emails from parents and students about how students wish they were back in school because they miss it very much, but she hasn’t seen any students suffering from serious mental health issues due to this pandemic. 

Teenagers struggling with mental health issues are encouraged to spend time with their family, connect with friends through social media, and work on habits and skills. 

“The habits we pick up can be useful after quarantine and I hope we can stick to the habits,” said Mrs. Hagan.

Rachel Carson Website

FCPS Mental Wellness Consultation Service Form

How to Support Your Child During COVID-19