Mental Health during a Pandemic

UNICEF warns that, “children and young people could feel the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come.” Graphic by Gabriel Toscano.

The United Nations Children’s Fund released their annual report on The State of the World’s Children, warning that “children and young people could feel the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come.” 

In the beginning, the pandemic took everyone by surprise. Quarantine, lockdown, social distancing, and the impacts of COVID-19 took a toll on many people’s mental health. UNICEF claims, “the pandemic has raised concerns about the mental health of a generation of children.”

“COVID ruined my mental health by not allowing me to be around others. The lack of human connection hurt me in more ways than one,” said Jaden Peel, a senior studying social work who felt the effects of the pandemic and online school firsthand. Online schooling was another factor that contributed to mental health problems in students, especially among teenagers and young adults.

A study conducted in the Netherlands and published in Quality of Life Research investigated the impact of lockdown on mental and social health. It showed that one-third of the participants reported feeling unhappy or depressed during the pandemic. More than a quarter of them also said they did not feel connected to teachers, classmates, or their school community. The study showed an increase in severe anxiety and sleeping problems. 

“Not enough importance is being placed on the relationship between mental health and future life outcomes,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. According to the flagship report by UNICEF, more than one in seven adolescents is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder globally, and one in five young people often feel depressed or have little interest in doing things. Heading into the third year of the pandemic, it’s crucial that the mental health and wellbeing of children and teenagers is a primary consideration. 

To improve her mental health and stay busy at home, Lucy Lawrence, a junior studying applied communication, said she saw the pandemic as the perfect opportunity to work on herself. 

“I kept myself busy with productive things like hobbies, and spending time with my family,” stated Lawrence. Having a schedule helped to reduce stress, and feel more productive with her time. She spent most of her free time with family and enjoying the outdoors.

For those experiencing mental health struggles, Utah Valley University offers individual and group therapy for current students through Mental Health Services. In case of a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, or text “START” to 741-741 to connect with a counselor through the Crisis Text Line.

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