By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer (‘23)

Ongoing stress from COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, all ages alike. The isolation, anxiety, and fear from the pandemic has especially impacted students as many struggle to cope with virtual learning, limited social interaction, and other personal issues. It is clear that mental health welfare has steadily declined: this can be accredited to the disruption of lives, leaving many unsure and unsettled. At the same time, COVID can be a chance to work through some of these obstacles by opening up and taking advantage of the opportunities presented.

Taking precautions against the virus has become the top priority; however, mental health is a continuing issue that should also be a priority. Mr. Mungiello, an art teacher at Indian Hills High School, offered his input on how COVID has provided opportunities for a greater awakening, despite the ongoing struggles.

“COVID has forced us all further into ourselves than we already were… For me, COVID has helped open my eyes to how much I was missing already, and if anything, that knowledge will help me connect to people–connect to my own life, in a richer way, after the pandemic is over. Because I was trapped in my house, I noticed, for the first time, the way light cast a rainbow on my wall. I noticed a bee pollinating a plant outside my house. I noticed how much time I was not at home, missing my wife.” 

On the contrary, for others, COVID has allowed for the realization of instability, anxiety, and insecurity. Kimberly Lazzara, a sophomore at Indian Hills, said, “As the world fell into a crazed pandemic, I was distraught because I was unable to see family and friends, and I was very concerned for the safety of loved ones and the public. I wondered how a lack of schedule would affect my mood. Initially, it was hard to navigate, and the days seemed very long and repetitive.”

Unfortunately, many people experienced similar sentiments and struggles. However, Lazzara reflected on this time expressing: “I slowly realized that the time spent by myself in the comfort of my own home helped me reflect on myself and my goals. I became more invested in my hobbies and was able to do important self-discovery throughout the months of quarantine. It wasn’t all great though, because obviously there were some bad days, but the quarantine helped me realize how I could value and make the most of my time. I think ultimately it was a scary and new experience for a lot of people, but for some, it was an adventure for those who enjoy living in their own mind.”

While COVID-19 does pose as a time of self-discovery and healing from mental health issues, it is imperative to recognize that it is okay not to be okay. Dr. Joshua Gordon, the director of the National Institute for Mental Health, said in a CBS interview, “All of us are affected in some way by this pandemic, and whether it reaches a threshold to require professional help or not, most of us are grieving, and most of us are anxious or worried about our future.”

The most important thing to remember is that even though quarantine made you feel the loneliest you ever have, many are in the same boat. There is no doubt that the year will continue to have its struggles, but the collective loneliness of this time can bring people together. It is okay to feel depressed, anxious, scared, stressed, and upset sometimes, but do not beat yourself up for it. With continuous support and understanding toward one another, we will work through these unprecedented times.