This pandemic has several effects on all of us. Our mental capacities are highly at stake as a result of it. Furthermore, the lockdown and isolation is contributing to the increase in anxiety amongst everyone, students as well!
Below, we have interviewed a psychologist, Ahmed Waheed. He is going to give us an insight on how the situation is affecting students specifically, and the essentials we should know regarding the difference in their mental health.
Do you think that this pandemic has a direct effect on the mental health of students?
This pandemic will affect most in two ways. One will be the fear and anxiety of catching the disease and the serious changes in routine they will have to adopt – staying indoors, extra cleaning and general worry related to the disease. The other serious effect on their mental health may come from constant worry and anxiety concerning their exams and their future. The uncertainty and information overload can be too much for many and will cause some prolonged stress.
How does staying indoors for a prolonged period of time disturb the mental and physical well-being of a teenager?
It’s a nightmare for an extroverted person but introverts might enjoy it for a bit. The problem comes when it is prolonged – when it challenges the person’s sense of free-will to move around, to be around nature or to be away from a close-knit environment. When autonomy is compromised, even introverts will feel the pinch. If they’re not exercising at home, that might compromise their health apart from the snacking some might resort to out of boredom.
What possible alterations can parents find in the behaviour of their children during the lockdown?
Though it is not advisable to make a generalization but parents might see anything between more intense emotions in children as a reaction to being bored or children adapting surprisingly well to staying more at home. Many might be used to it and might even see it as a slight change.
“Teenagers have a greater risk of being victims of anxiety and depression as compared to adults” Do you agree or disagree with it?
This is not necessarily true. We know very well that anxiety and depression are found in people with genetic predispositions to it combined with a very particular kind of mindset or specific thought patterns and then these two in turn might be triggered by stressful events. The question becomes whether prolonged ‘physical distancing’ will actually be stressful. It might be for many. But that will depend on what stress it brings. For those who’s support network dries up or they feel lonely or are stuck in mild to severely toxic environments might have more stress. To some who are stressed due to WFH or a very probable loss in job or income will probably have their symptoms severely triggered and will need help.
What steps should students take in order to keep their mental health normal in such hard times?
Normalize it. Physical distancing needs to be replaced with social distancing. Expect that people might be stressed so check with them regularly. Call up your friends and relatives and say hello. Have a routine. Avoid stressful situations if one can. Minimize contact with the news and social media to specific hours in the day. There has not been a better time to put your phone down and disconnect regularly. Being constantly connected and on the go is a silent kind of stress that builds up over time. If bored, read, write, do some gardening or cooking. Exercise. Most importantly, slow down. It is okay to be unproductive and indulge in self-care or just doing absolutely nothing in your free time. Check in 3 to 4 times a day with yourself and see how you feel and what your thoughts are like. Notice.
Is there something you would like to say to students and their parents related to this issue?
Expect changes in people’s moods and behaviors. Rather than shaming or criticizing them, just talk to them and understand and listen. Read on how to cope with negative emotions and frustration in general because that might occur more frequently in a situation where people might be stuck together for prolonged periods. Revive collective activities that everyone in the family can do together. Anything from a board-game, collective cooking, sitting and chatting, reading etc. It’s important to inculcate a good family, collective culture through shared activities.
We are all in this together. We need to empathize more than we did. This pandemic is not only limited to sanitizing your hands, you need to take care of your mental health as well. It is as important as your physical health.
By: Dua Ahsan