Limited In-Person Interaction Takes a Toll on Mental Health of CRLS Students

Some+CRLS+students+miss+the+social+interaction+that+they+experience+in+school+and+the+boost+it+gives+their+mood.+

Ada Carter

Some CRLS students miss the social interaction that they experience in school and the boost it gives their mood.

Julia Shaw, Contributing Writer

We all know how the physical health of CRLS students may have deteriorated during this quarantine. Staying inside all day on a computer screen, and thus not getting much exercise, can take a toll on everyone’s body. But what about students’ mental health? Is CPSD taking the mental health of its students into account with distance learning? School is a large part of all students’ lives, and therefore greatly impacts their mental health. When that learning environment is taken away as it has been during this shutdown, mental health can be very negatively affected for a large percentage of students. 

“I feel like it really depends on the type of student and the type of environment they are comfortable learning in,” said Elena Cooper ’21 when asked if distance learning has a positive or negative effect on students’ mental health. “I think it really depends. For a lot of students, school was the reason for their bad mental health, but for others, going to school was a distraction,” agreed Valentina Sevilhano Duarte ’23. 

How students are experiencing the closure varies. Some are relieved to stay at home every day, while others wish they could go to school. Molly Doran ’21 stated,  “School for some people was an escape from their lives at home, and now all they can do is stay at home.” 

Doing academic work online isn’t where these changes stop. This quarantine has caused most people to stop seeing friends and having face-to-face interactions. Although there is little the CRLS administration can do to change this situation, it still impacts many people’s mental health, and, therefore, could have an influence on academic work. Margaret Rowe ’23 stated, “I think it’s been a difficult transition because we’re used to seeing friends and peers every day.” Sami Friedman-Wellisch ’23 agreed: “I consider many of my friends a part of my family, and it’s been really hard not being able to see them.” Although many people are able to communicate with their friends using video calls, it often isn’t the same. Psychologically, talking to someone through a screen won’t increase your dopamine, which would improve your happiness and therefore mental health, the same way physically being near other people will. 

For a lot of students, school was the reason for their bad mental health, but for others, going to school was a distraction.”

— Valentina Sevilhano Duarte ’23

Although CRLS teachers are continuing to give students work, and possibly having meetings with them, this interaction will never be identical to being in a physical classroom environment every day. Audrey O’Donnell ’23 said, “The hardest part is not having the structure and needing to make that structure for yourself and keeping track of the work.” Without the normal schedule of a school day, many students have expressed that it is extremely difficult to find the motivation to do their schoolwork, especially if it doesn’t affect their grade. Doran stated,  “I have no urge to do any school work and it’s going to have a huge impact on me when I have to go back to school … Online learning is making me not want to do anything besides sleep.” Without a physical classroom environment to learn in, it can be difficult to pay attention and continue to learn throughout this stressful and challenging time.

So, what is CRLS doing about this? Is it enough? Friedman-Wellisch said, “I think that CRLS is doing a great job thinking about mental health …  however, there aren’t really ways for us to do our work without screen time, and I don’t think CPSD realizes how that might affect us, though I’m not sure how they could change that.” Sitting doing work on a Chromebook all day can be draining, both physically and mentally. Charlotte Dale ’23 said, “There’s not a lot that the school can do now, but I think they mainly just need to be more considerate of students and staff and their families.” Many teachers seem to be doing as much as they can by being flexible with due dates and grading assignments while school is shut down, though it is also likely hard for them to consider every single mental health issue their students may be dealing with. 

This is a difficult time for everyone, regardless of any pre-existing mental health issues people may suffer from. These changes in everyone’s daily routine could have negative effects on some students. Although people may dislike school while they are there, not learning in classrooms at CRLS has made most people wish they could be back in the physical building. Lila Valaskovic ’23 said “I actually miss going to school,” a statement that many CRLS students can agree with.