In November 2019, Lancers Helping Lancers organized and executed a mental health week. Seniors Sydney Stinnett and Taylor Wulf help to make clothespins to clip on to unsuspecting student’s clothes and backpacks with uplifting messages written on them. (Audrey Samples)
In November 2019, Lancers Helping Lancers organized and executed a mental health week. Seniors Sydney Stinnett and Taylor Wulf help to make clothespins to clip on to unsuspecting student’s clothes and backpacks with uplifting messages written on them.

Audrey Samples

COVID-19 affects mental health of students in differing ways

September 30, 2020

Some students have found paying attention to their mental health during the stress brought upon by COVID-19 is essential to their well-being. And, while some have faced new struggles as a result of being locked down at home and more isolated, many have also found ways to relieve that new stress. Junior Gabbi Kennedy is one of those who has found that coping skills are necessary in a time like this in order to keep busy and relaxed.

“A helpful tool for me during the pandemic is being around family because we help each other. Yes, things have been more stressful since school has now started because I really need to make sure I stay organized through school and just through today’s lifestyle. A coping skill I use that really helps is listening to music. It helps me focus because music brings me joy and really motivates me,” Kennedy said.

Social studies teacher and Lancers Helping Lancers (LHL) sponsor Steve Klawiter acknowledges the importance of student’s mental health during this time, but also acknowledges the struggle they may be facing due to the limitations as a result of the pandemic.

“Quarantine has been a challenge for everyone, but especially for people struggling in terms of mental health. The support networks of friends and family that people rely on can’t be easily assembled and are separated often by technology. In addition, the global pandemic has created a sense of unease or even dread that can exacerbate these difficulties,” Klawiter said.

These added stressors and a lack of support can add up to be more than some people can handle and lead to tragic consequences.

Statistics show increase in suicides during past, present pandemic crisis situations

One of these unfortunate consequences is a rise in suicide rates. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages 10-34. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young adults “reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The CDC conducted a survey to compare the increase of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder during April and June of 2020 to that in a similar survey performed in April and June of 2019. The results reported that symptoms “increased considerably”.

While many other factors could contribute to these increases, the most common is the stress of the change of lifestyle that came along with the global pandemic, which introduced the current population to a way of living that is drastically different from everything they have ever known. Additionally, they cited factors such as mental, physical, and emotional abuse at home during the pandemic as people were forced to spend more prolonged periods in those households that may have been unsafe, but they did not have alternatives available. 


During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the suicide rates around the globe spiked, adding to the total deaths that were directly related to the virus. Due to this, experts on Oxford Academic have warned of a possible jump in suicide rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus impact continues, these predictions are beginning to come true. An article on reports that Didi Hirsch, who operates one of the largest suicide crisis call centers in the United States “has received more than 1,500 calls about the coronavirus in March, which is 75 times more than the previous month”. These fears are only increasing as citizens begin to see news reporting the deaths of fellow citizens by mental health complications in relation to the virus.

Physical education teacher and LHL sponsor Denise Meyer is also concerned about the effect the pandemic has had on the mental health of students and encourages those who are struggling to reach out to the resources that are available.

“I really do believe that mental health has been affected by COVID-19. From fears of getting sick or dying, grief because people we know have passed away, to depression related to isolation and loss of involvement in activities we enjoy,” Meyer said, “I believe many of us feel similarly even if we don’t voice it. Without sharing personal information I can tell you that I know three people personally who have been admitted to behavioral units for depression and suicidal ideation in the past six months. It’s a very tough time, even tougher for those with mental illness.”

LHL, Uplifting Clubs among Lafayette groups provide resources for students who may need help coping

Lafayette has many resources for students who are struggling during the pandemic. In addition to Mindfulness Monday events organized by the Counseling Department and open to all students during the time before class on Mondays, many clubs and organizations, such as LHL and the Lafayette Uplifting Club, have been meeting to engage with students and continue the conversation about mental health at Lafayette. 

“The LHL organization is hoping to restart officially for the 2020-2021 school year some time during the 2nd Quarter. However, student club leaders and members have been maintaining connections and working together throughout this crisis in a variety of ways,” Klawiter said.

Senior Tessa Clark, an LHL co-leader, said the club is in full swing and planning events for the future as well as bringing awareness to crisis lines.

“Lately LHL has been trying to spread awareness for different resources such as the Crisis Text Line, 741-741, and we have been trying to maintain contact throughout the group by sharing our own coping mechanisms. With virtual learning we have been struggling to find ways to connect with students, but we have some events underway that we are very excited about,” Clark said. “Things like LHL need to be more accessible and prevalent today because kids are stuck at home in their brains without their usual distractors. It is so important to be conscious of how you’re feeling mentally in order to feel well and perform well in school. While we are social distancing, we need to be making sure that we are emotionally connected to ourselves and others,” Clark said.

At LHL’s most recent meeting, member’s discussed coping skills for online learning as well as a giveaway raffle for those that attended the meeting.

The conversation about mental health and the stigma surrounding it has been in progress at Lafayette since its opening, however, it became a real focus of the students and staff when the school was rocked by the loss of two students by suicide in a very short time span in late 2014.  

“In August 2015, two students approached me about starting LHL. Together with Mr. Klawiter, we embarked on a journey to destigmatize mental illness and prevent suicide.” Meyer said, “Last year [Elizabeth] Overcash took a lead role in the club, and with Flex the number of students meeting blossomed. It’s important we continue conversations about mental health.”

In addition to LHL, there are other options for students who are feeling alone to reach out to at Lafayette. One example of this is the new Lafayette Uplifting Club. Senior Shanita Ross formed the group as a way to help students create a more positive mindset when facing the challenges the pandemic has brought.

“Quarantine in March was very hard for a lot of us. I saw the visible toll it took on our mental health during quarantine, so I really wanted to take that time to figure out a way we can support each other, hence [the] Uplifting Lafayette club. I hope this club becomes a powerful tool to help each other. I want this club to drive the message of peers helping peers because we really cannot see enough of it,” Ross said.

Junior Zakee Branch is vice president and hopes the Uplifting Lafayette brings hope to those struggling with mental health issues during this time.

“COVID has made a lot of our lives terrible, and we are adapting very well, but some of us aren’t. We want to bring happiness and joy into people and give people something to relate over. Mental health is a big issue especially in the teen community,” Branch said. “We have had suicides at Lafayette from people we pictured as ‘happy’ but they were hurting. We’ve lost so many talented, kind and special people to suicide. Find help from friends, parents and counselors. Don’t go through it alone. Some people find that talking about the problem isn’t the way to go, but talking to someone just may save your life.”

Uplifting Lafayette also offers anonymous help to anyone who feels they need to reach out to someone.

“You can reach out anonymously and we’ll send you support based on our experiences. Understanding each other helps us feel more connected and valued. We understand that it is incredibly easy to tell you to just talk to someone, but we encourage you to take that step because you are definitely not alone. Please remember your voice is just as important as the next,” Ross said.

Cruzen finds ways to focus on the positive by bringing joy to others

Additionally, individual students have found ways to cope with the stress brought on by the pandemic. Junior Linzy Cruzen has been able to identify both her stressors and the positives that have come out of the current situation.

Photo courtesy of Linzy Cruzen

“I have faced both ups and downs mentally, I’ve been really stressed about family/friends getting sick and how school is going to work especially since I’m doing [the Early College Partnership] (ECP). I’m also trying to finish moving during this, which is an added stressor. And, the upcoming election is stressing me out,” Cruzen said. “Some positives that have come out of this is that my body insecurities have gone down a lot, which is good. I’ve even cropped some shirts and made masks out of the leftover fabric. Another positive is that I’m trying to take care of myself and trying to express ways others can help themselves and each other and spread love.”

Cruzen has also taken to social media to help to spread joy, as she posts nightly messages on her Instagram story, intending to help people end the night on a good note, no matter the day that they’ve had.

“I put one out before I went to bed one day and they stuck. I want to try and make people smile and have a feeling of joy even if it’s only for a little bit. I want people to remember they’re loved and not alone and if they need anything they can reach out to me or someone else. It’s important to stick together, especially now,” Cruzen said.

Photo courtesy of Linzy Cruzen

Cruzen also acknowledges that certain stressors cannot be avoided, but that help is available to accept the things that are not able to be controlled.

“People can’t go and see friends or family, they’re worried about getting sick, and so many things have happened during these six-plus months that have impacted mental health as well,” Cruzen said. “These are all very stressful things that can negatively impact a person especially when people are seeing it over a long period of time and they can only do so much about it.”

Every person is having a different reaction to the current situation, however, school nurse Kristen Emms emphasizes that all of these reactions are normal and are worth seeking help if the individual person believes it would help them.

“For some kids, being home more and cut off from their usual routines can be stressful.  Some are worried about the actual illness. Other kids are seeing the many other ways their families are affected by this, such as parents losing their jobs or parents now working from home,” Emms said. “Talking to someone else helps to release their emotions and process them. You can literally give some of it away by talking and sharing with someone else. I encourage kids to talk to their parents who love them so much, but another trusted adult or teacher is great too. The most important thing to do is be open, honest and talk about it.  Keeping your problems and emotions bottled up inside makes them worse.”

Living life inside the four walls of home doesn’t mean students are alone

As everyone continues to navigate the new normal of life in a pandemic, it is important for students to remember that although they may be attending classes while they are sitting alone in their homes, there are opportunities and resources available if they need some help.

“To students struggling with depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation I would say speak out despite your brain telling you to keep it secret. Speak out to a trusted friend, adult, school counselor, therapist, teacher, parent, youth group leader, any person that you trust. Speaking out is brave and the first step to recovery. Help exists. Hope exists. I know we are on Zoom, but it’s courageous to ask your teacher to stay on the Zoom a little longer and share with them the status of your mental health. Your life is worth it and people everywhere want to be a source of support,” Meyer said.

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