How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students’ mental health

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 5:06 PM EDT
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(WBNG) -- As students return to school and learn to adjust to life after lockdown, many are left to navigate mental health struggles intensified by the pandemic.

According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, or CDC, one in six students had enough behavioral and emotional symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Johnson City High School Social Worker Sue Linfoot told 12 News isolation and uncertainty have made it harder for students to handle their emotions.

“Not understanding what was going on, not knowing what to expect, the amount of isolation, then you take that to an adolescent level and it’s like they got the wind knocked out of them,” said Linfoot.

She told 12 News they have seen an increase in anxiety and depression, as the pandemic has made these issues more prominent in the student population.

Johnson City Middle School Counselor Kari Eiklor said students’ tolerance for others has also decreased.

“I’ve seen an increase in peer conflicts because they’re not able to communicate as well,” said Eiklor. “Because of all those other things they’re dealing with, they’ve just been out of practice.”

And the stressors of home life, as well as the adjustment to normalcy have brought mental health issues among students to the forefront.

“Kids will say to each other, I don’t want to live, I’m done,” Linfoot said.

Eiklor told 12 News they are making an effort to make students aware of the warning signs for those struggling.

“You’re going to know about something before we do, so if you notice a change, let us know so we can just make sure,” said Eiklor.

Although students usually feel more comfortable sharing with people who are not emotionally affected by the situation, counselors say it’s important for parents, peers and schools to work together.

“In a lot of ways education has become an extension of the family,” Linfoot said.

Over the last few years, Johnson City High School has implemented a Social-Emotional Learning curriculum for Kindergarten through 8th grade to build the foundation for handling stress and emotions as students mature and grow.