The Mental Health Effects of Distance Learning
Since March 2020 when most countries began to see a rise in their COVID-19 cases, more students were shut out of their classroom. Over 1.2 billion students globally were affected by school closures, also recognized as 90% of the world’s students. As a result of the shutdown many schools and students had to adjust to online learning that was done from home. Due to the change being so rapid, institutions were forced to implement haphazard systems of online learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Though only in place for a few months, many students felt the impacts of online learning on their mental health and continue to fear its reprisal in the fall.
While most students understand the circumstances of the change, many will continue to suffer with feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, despair etc. What seems to be at the cause of these sentiments? Many of these feelings are some of the short term mental health effects. During this time, many students find it difficult to excel academically as they would in a typical schooling environment as well as struggling with the isolation that follows.
A large number of students find that their grades are much different during online schooling than they are during regular schooling. For some, this means they see major improvement at home than in the classroom. However, that also means many others see a drastic drop in their grades.This can affect any student, but it is likely to be seen in students who have limited access to technology, have English as a second language or are in special education programs. They lack the in person resources they are typically offered in school and understandably their performance levels may change. Despite reason implying that a global pandemic is a justified reason to see a dip in grades, many still find themselves sad and put more pressure on themselves which in turn leads to higher stress levels and anxiety.
While not all students may suffer from the problems above, most will certainly be affected by the isolation that comes with online learning. School for a lot of students is a place where they have an opportunity to gather and interact with their peers on a daily basis. Suddenly, lacking all these forms of physical interaction, students at home may find themselves feeling desolated and in despair. This can be heightened by the knowledge of students in transitional years that they are missing out on the typical schooling experiences. This includes FROSH Week, Grade 9 Day, prom, sporting events etc. While those who have experienced these events may not think they are very important, those who do not have that opportunity can suffer from feeling sadness and long-term disappointment.
Finally, for many students, home is typically a place of relief away from the stress of school work. When the two environments are combined, students will begin to associate any negative feelings they have towards school work to their home environment, which means they will have no place of solitude. This may lead to feelings of being trapped and may form unhealthy coping mechanisms such as forms of escapism.
There are many other ways students’ mental health can be compromised during these trying times, which is why it is important for students to seek the appropriate help. For those who come from low-income households, their only form of aid could’ve been from school and they may not know where else to look. Others, even with the ability to get help, may feel that because others have it worse, their mental health is not a priority and they have no right to complain. It is our job as a society to make sure that people are seeking the help they need and deserve.
To anyone reading this who may find the current schooling circumstances overwhelming or stressful, you are not alone and help is available if you need it.
*Check our Resources Page for mental health hotlines and other support systems.