Mental Health in the times of Covid-19

Community members find creative ways to maintain positive mental health during quarantine

In the comfort of her home, Sarah Zhou ’20 fiercely dances to the video game “Just Dance.” As she and her younger brother Eric Zhou ’22 mimic the routines of the bright and colorful characters on the screen, she gleams at him. “Just Dance” is one of the many activities Zhou is partaking in to stay happy and keep her family’s spirits high during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many across the country, Zhou is taking full advantage of the time away from school in order to sustain her mental health.
“I think it’s important to create personal goals for yourself,” Zhou said. “These goals can range from being more physically fit, reading more, building new relationships by reaching out to people you haven’t talked to in a while or picking up new skills. As we work toward these personal goals, we can get the satisfaction that we’re being productive and improving ourselves.”
As schools across the country are upended and students turn to distant learning – along with the stress of the national crisis and change in routine – the mental health of students can also be impacted. According to the Washington Post, at the Montgomery County Crisis Center, an agency that runs a 24/7 call center, lines are almost twice as busy. Last year, the center had 2,996 calls in the month of March. This year, the center logged 2,581 calls in just the first two weeks of the month.
“Human beings are social creatures who respond well to structure and predictability,” Director of Student Services, Sarah Bowen said. “The current quarantine doesn’t allow for much of any of these things. So, I think that while the quarantine is clearly needed to help mitigate the coronavirus, it may cause some people to feel sadness, depression, boredom, anxiety, or loneliness.”
At Stevenson, counselors, social workers, and psychologists are still available to support students during the quarantine. Students are encouraged to reach out to their Student Support Team through email with any concerns.
In order to help students’ mental health during social distancing, social worker Janet Sushinski said that various Student Support Teams have been engaging with their students through Zoom and Google Hangouts. Additionally, they have been reaching out to students who may need support through direct student action or teacher references. Sushinski said that the most essential lesson to learn from the quarantine is that we are a community through all of this.
“We are helping our students and families connect with community services as needed,” Sushinski said. “Whether it is connecting them to food resources, financial support or mental health counseling – we are continuing to be the link for many of our families who are in need. We have created an ongoing document of current support in our community that are still operating during this pandemic so we can stay up to date with what is out there.”
Bowen also believes that having a normal routine can also help maintain students’ mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people take time to unwind, connect with others and try to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
“I do think it’s important to try to maintain some sort of schedule,” Bowen said. “Human beings generally respond well to structure, and predictability and schedules help to establish these things.”
According to Northwestern Medicine, routines can also lead to better sleep and stress levels and a healthier lifestyle overall.
Ultimately, Zhou believes that it is undeniable that there is a shared anxiety in the world since no one is certain as to how long the coronavirus pandemic will last and the sheer impact of it. However, it is paramount for us to maintain our mental health and wellness during these difficult times with loved ones.
“How we take care of our mental states during quarantine will affect us in the long-term,” Zhou said. “I believe that if we neglect to take care of our mental well-being, our mental health will be much more fragile in the future.”