On March 12, 2020, the coronavirus made its first impact on Archbishop McNicholas High School. In just one day, the lives of the students and faculty of McNick were impacted greatly. The teachers had to learn new ways of teaching, while students were frantically trying to figure out what was going to happen to the rest of the school year. Overnight, the community of McNicholas was faced with the change of seeing each other every day to a world filled with isolation. This alone can have a huge impact on everyday life, but also to the mental health of people all around the world including the McNick community.
Since coronavirus, there have been significant spikes in depression, substance abuse, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans report that the coronavirus is harming their mental health. Thousands of people struggling with the effects of the pandemic are flooding national helplines ranging from all different age groups. People do not know how to handle this change of life and the anxiety that comes with it. The Disaster Distress Helpline, a national helpline, has experienced the brunt of the mental health spike. In March alone, this helpline saw a 338% increase in call volume compared with Feburary. From March of 2019 to March 2020, the Disaster Distress Helpline has seen an increase of 891% in calls. These numbers are an important example of how this pandemic is having such a big impact on everyone.
The crisis of mental health has affected all age groups nationwide, however; researchers and scientists have discovered something that could impact generations to come. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mental health issues seem to be more pronounced in young adults. This discovery alone has already been proven verifiable during the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year.
Director of Counseling at McNicholas High School, Alaina Way said, “We have had a lot more students come in needing support, more than we would typically get the first month of school, mainly with anxiety and stress.”
This statement from the Counseling Department shows justifiable evidence of how the immediate McNicholas affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Students and faculty have not only been affected by this new reality of life individually, but the changes to school as well. From the wearing of masks to one way hallways to the cancelation of the annual Homecoming dance, these changes can feel like everything is taken away all at once. Students do not have the opportunity to sit close with their friends or cheer on the football team on Friday nights, and teachers have to juggle groups of students in different rooms for one class and the technological difficulties that come with the new virtual learning.
Theology teacher Teresa Davis has also experienced a difference in her classrooms since the pandemic hit. She stated, “I have noticed students with crinkled eyes – meaning they are smiling behind the mask – yet also – all too quiet. I am not saying settle down or hush as often. I do miss laughing hard and loud with my students. We are so intent on following the rules, to create safe space, it is business first.”
McNick has given students resources to get the support that they need through the counseling department and through a support team called Hope Squad which provides students with peers who are trustworthy and trained to identify high-risk students and provide friendship for those who need someone.
“McNick is doing an extremely good job with the Covid guidelines and regulations. The teachers are doing an amazing job keeping up with the work and technology,” senior Madison Isaacs said.
During this shift in the school year, it is important to come together as a community to help one another get through this unique and unprecedented time. Mental health is a critical component that should not be overlooked.
Sophomore Brady Arnold said, “I think that the main change in my mental health is that I’ve become mentally stronger and more mature and independent because we had to go through a span of time where our contact with friends and teachers was very limited and it gave us lots of time to personally reflect and grow.”
What can the McNicholas community do to help during this time of change and uncertainty?
- Value yourself
- Take care of your body, good nutrition and exercise
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Take the time to laugh
- Spend some time with a furry friend
- Gratitude Journaling
- Read a book
- Take on a challenge
- Receive support from your friends and family
“Something that I do is look back at pictures. I look back at the pictures and fun memories that I had and know that if I am feeling depressed or having a depressive time or thoughts just know that it is not going to last forever. I can get back to those happy days as soon as whatever is going on is done,” Isaacs said.