Student Health Amongst Havoc by Anna Gorman

In the midst of this current COVID-19 pandemic, human health has suffered considerably, whether this is due to the effects of the virus itself or the mentally challenging aspects of self-isolation. Nevertheless, despite all of the challenges thrown suddenly upon the world in this time of political turmoil, health crises, and soaring unemployment rates, many people have endeavoured to help those in the most desperate need.

In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, many medical physicians have risen to prominence due to their insight and reliability; many mental health specialists have also positively impacted individuals’ lives in these anxious and frightening times. Throughout the United States, citizens have been permitted to exercise daily outside of their homes and many mental health officials, including local experts, are encouraging the frequent use of phone calls, texts, and electronic communication to stay connected with friends.  

According to a recent school wide survey sent to the Santa Catalina student body, during this unprecedented time of online schooling, students’ motivation to study and perform well on tests has decreased. A quarter of students said that their motivation level has decreased by 30 to 59 percent in comparison to their typical motivation levels during in-person learning. Another quarter of the students said that they have found it difficult to motivate themselves during quarantine. Out of the seventy one participants in the survey, forty said that they have had a major decrease in their motivation to learn. Only two students said that their motivation level has increased since the change to remote learning. This indicates that the majority of students at Santa Catalina have significantly higher motivation when surrounded by peers.

Another question asked on the survey considered whether or not students have used their increased time at home to learn something new or brush up on an old skill. Due to the current lack of physical socialization, team sports, or clubs, nearly 86% of students said that they have taken to learning new hobbies that they had previously put off because of a lack of extra time. This indicates that while students may struggle to feel motivated by their academic work, they are nevertheless enthusiastic to try new activities that differ from their daily routines.

With regards to the survey’s discussion of physical health and exercise, when asked if they had exercised for an hour or more a day during self-isolation, students responded with a very near draw. Thirty six students said yes, while thirty five students said no. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children and teens should exercise daily for a recommended sixty minutes to maintain their physical health. When attending in-person classes, students walk around campus from classroom to classroom multiple times each day, walking for at least an hour daily. Additionally, students must participate in a sport or physical activity or take part in a theatre production. In comparison, students attending online school often spend hours daily participating in class discussions or completing online homework and often do not find the time to exercise.

Besides exercise, another important aspect of mental health is communication and socialization. In regards to communication, students participating in the survey were asked how often they were keeping in touch with their friends during quarantine. Twenty seven students said that they kept in contact with their friends “as often as possible.” This frequent contact is vital in maintaining healthy and strong relationships. Moreover, digital communication provides students with an outlet to relieve their stress and learn more about the experiences of their other community members, an aspect that is especially important during this time in which individuals are constantly surrounded by those with whom they live.

Lastly, the survey discussed students’ device usage during this time. Sixty eight students said that they had spent more time on a device during self-isolation, while sixty reported that they had spent an increased amount of time on social media. While the effects of social media on mental health are still disputed, it is safe to say that social media can be a comforting way to share stories, ideas, and experiences with friends.

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