Surging Mental Health problems Due to Online Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic!

Surging Mental Health problems Due to Online Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic!

By Adel Eldin, MD, FACC, FACP, MBA, GGA

COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of life including the added stress of online learning which has been reported by 75% of college students. Reporting more emotional anxiety, zoom fatigue, staying up the night, changing the normal sleep pattern, and waking up in the afternoon. Students are not able to see friends and socialize with them in person. Many students report feeling helpless with low self-esteem, They become very exhausted starring at the computer screen for hours every day without in-person interaction in the classroom.

There is more feeling of isolation without any friends around as students miss being in school or on campus for education and mental health and wellness. To combat isolation is to regularly connect with friends even through the phone at least and be able to talk with trusted friends as well as family members. Some students started to sleep more during the day with more feelings isolated from friends and family. Research studies showed school environment is critical for healthy social development and motivation to achieve academic success. Additional complicating factors include ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the cold winter season and economic hardships with loss of jobs of either or both prents staying at home to care for their children.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC reported each year an estimated 1 in 5 U.S children experience a mental or emotional disorder such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, or disruptive behavior disorder. Only 20% of affected children get a specialized mental health provider but after COVID-19, it is expected that more young people will need to receive mental health care.

We certainly need to support children growing mental health needs at home and globally because if these problems were addressed early at a young age, those kids will grow up to be adults with worse, more complicated, and more costly mental health issues later in life as would need chronic treatment and interventions. Public schools, in particular, need lots of support and funding for mental health, nutrition, social workers, school counselors, and psychiatrists.

For children with more serious mental and behavioral health problems, they would need more intensive interventions with parents’ permission via effective partnership through a tiered approach. Social and emotional learning is important to set goals, manage feelings to help students. There is a need to identify kids at risk for mental health issues and screen them to assess their special educational needs. 

COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of school-based mental health issues and the need to quickly address them. Schools need to be opened safely and be ready with proper mental health staffing to give the support students need and help now more than ever!