An article by Betsy Hill and Roger Stark, published on EdTech, addresses the connection among stress, anxiety, academic performance and cognitive skills. It begins thus:
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to better understand and address mental health in more effective ways.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to students, educators, and parents. Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes, and now we are learning about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.”
As early as June 2020, if not before, the Coronavirus pandemic was already taking its toll on the mental wellbeing of our young people. According to a Gallop Poll at that time, “Nearly three in 10 parents (29 percent) say their child is ‘already experiencing harm’ to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. Another 14 percent indicate their children are approaching their limits, saying they could continue social distancing a few more weeks until their mental health suffers.”
Obviously, the reality of social distancing, remote learning and isolation have lasted much longer than “a few more weeks.” Even though the rate of COVID-19 infection has been lower among young people and the cases less serious for the most part, the societal consequences have been severe.
Even when students returned to the classroom, which most have done, it did not resolve the challenges that children continue to face that affect their mental health. A recent study by the Pew Institute stated, “After more than 18 months of school closures and social isolation, the nation’s more than 50 million public school children are mostly back at their desks… The grief, anxiety and depression children have experienced during the pandemic is welling over into classrooms and hallways, resulting in crying and disruptive behavior in many younger kids and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. For many other children, who keep their sadness and fear inside, the pressures of school have become too great.”
In June, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared that the pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health had become a national emergency.