‘It feels like there’s something on me’: Students struggle with mental health after pandemic isolation

‘It feels like there’s something on me’: Students struggle with mental health after pandemic isolation

SPOKANE, Washington — Two and a half rocky years of the distance learning and social distancing pandemic have changed the lives of many students, especially those entering high school.

Personal learning, combined with starting a brand new school, can be terrifying for some.

One student was in the middle of fifth grade when he began to experience emotional challenges almost every day. After the pandemic, he was forced into virtual learning, returned to face-to-face learning and then continued on to high school, fueling his anxiety.

“It was really hard for me because I got used to being virtual. Now I am back with pen and paper with the people in the class. It’s really hard for me to focus,” said one high school student, who chose to remain anonymous.

His mother says the pandemic has stunted her son’s social growth and sometimes made it difficult for him to get through the day.

“I really started to notice depression that I assumed started at home, but became more apparent when he started high school. He had a lot of anxiety, had panic attacks,” said the student’s mother.

Spokane Public Schools teachers are seeing this pattern of anxiety in more students since the pandemic began in 2020.

“Children who would have been in sixth grade in primary school now attend secondary school. I think that shift in high school dynamics is increasing in kids who need mental health care,” said Marilis Thomas, a mental health therapist at Spokane Public Schools.

Thomas says they encourage families to destigmatize mental health for those who need it.

“Sometimes kids don’t know exactly what the trigger is or what keeps them from wanting to be in school or in social situations, so normalize that first,” Thomas said.

Parents can contact school administrators and counselors if they want to explore mental health services. More therapists are now available throughout the district.

READ: SPS Provides Mental Health Resources for Students to Start the New School Year


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