Mental Health in Gen Z

During the pandemic and online school, sometimes we need a reminder know to how important we are. 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2% in last year's dataset. This rate was highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4%.

Emily Romero

During the pandemic and online school, sometimes we need a reminder know to how important we are. 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2% in last year’s dataset. This rate was highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4%.

Emily Romero, Journalist

Quarantine has made an everlasting impact on millions of people around the world.  Job unemployment rates  peaked in April of 2020 by 14.7%. By January 2021, employment was still in decline of 140,000, unchanged at 6.7%. The new norms in the US are making sure to wear a mask in public and being more aware of sanitation.

Students have been in isolation without any other contact other than family members and can no longer go to school in person and talk to their classmates or friends.  After COVID-19’s peak, 55 million U.S. students under age of 18 were staying at home, with 1.4 billion across the globe without child care or school.  Most students lacked access to schools and what schools  provided.  Students lost recreational activities, clubs, and sports because of distance learning.

With lack of production and isolation, it’s common and normal to feel depression.  The stress of unemployment, health, and feelings of loss takes a toll. 

“Teenagers have experienced some degree of stress during pandemic whether it’s missing friends, or more serious stressors like a parent losing a job, someone getting sick or an unstable home life,” says Victoria Freer.  It could potentially make teens more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and mental health issues. Adolescent suicides have skyrocketed alarmingly in 2020 increasing at 32% in the past 4 years from 8.4 to 11.1 deaths per 100,000 adolescents of ages 15-19.  According to Centre for Suicide Prevention, sexual and gender minority youth are a higher risk for suicide than straight peers, says Dr. Sara Dungavell. 

Low-income students are more at a disadvantage with social distance learning.  Black and Hispanic students in low-income areas saw slight declines more than other peers with resources allocated to them.  This could possibly set back students who were already behind affluent students with resources, further behind.  Falling further and further behind in school could cause disparity and another factor of stress amongst students amidst the pandemic.  

The impact is more severe for students of color. McKinsey’s June report found that white students would earn $1,348 a year less (a 1.6 percent reduction) over a 40-year working life, Black students would bring in $2,186 a year less (a 3.3 percent reduction) and Hispanic students would earn $1,809 less (3 percent).” 

Some students find it hard to struggle balancing between school, family, and taking on jobs to support their family during COVID-19.  Educational disruptions due to the pandemic are impacting students and their ability to learn while taking care of younger siblings  or working due to lay-offs.  

Senior Ethan Bunn had found difficulties in time management in trying to care for his siblings all while being at school during Zoom.  “It takes more of a toll trying to pass and graduate while having to take care of my siblings while my mom works.  I am a full-time student and babysitter, and sometimes with the work environment, it feels overwhelming all while not seeing my friends and being always cautious of my health when I go out to prevent getting my family sick,” Ethan explains.  Even during his free-time, he spends it getting hours of homework done or studying.  

“Being a senior and being an online student was way harder than I thought it would be, my senioritis is over the roof being at home.  It [online learning] makes me feel unmotivated, but the only motivation I have is to make it through, so I can graduate.  I don’t feel close to my friends anymore and my week consists of stressing over assignments and sleeping, a cycle, adds Senior Michelle Romero.  “Stress and other mental illnesses amongst students are probably at an all time high being home with parents who aren’t that easy to talk to than people at school or counselors provide.”  

Nick Mathern, vice president of Achieving the Dream, a K12 Partnerships nonprofit,  which gives opportunities for students to complete college says, “They’re at home being their own teachers.”  Dealing with multiple factors thrown at students during the pandemic, it’s easy to feel so overwhelmed.  

“It’s my junior year and me working constantly, while doing online school has put way more stress on me and I feel that even in 30 minutes within classes, I’m not learning, so the workload after is way harder when I have little to no time to do it.  At one point I felt unmotivated doing the same routine every day and feeling way more burnt out. This school year has made a decline in everything in my life,” Junior Esther Lozada explains about how difficult the pandemic has made her school life.  “I usually did good in school before and I got my work done, but now that I work and have to balance and manage time with family, work, and school and still have to go home and do homework or study. It takes a toll on you with trying to figure out every next decision you make.  I have to be cautious and think about my health and my family’s health while I work at a job where I’m constantly surrounded by people.” 

Students feel overwhelmed without social interaction with peers and with a recent survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, more than half students responded to the survey saying they were in need of mental health support since closures of schools in March 2020.  Including the 22% who responded they had assistance before closures of schools, but now have limited to no help.  32% of students who said their mental health needs have risen since schools have closed due to the pandemic.

Something important to note is that among  elementary school students and young adolescents, social interaction is important to develop a sense of self, norms, and to start learning what others expect of them. Whereas, staying home isolated from other children and peers could potentially have young children at a disadvantage with socialization, due to distance learning at home.  

Unfortunately, earlier this December, an elementary student Adan Lanos, at Woodbridge Elementary School, shot himself during their zoom class.  The elementary student’s family reported it was an accident and that all guns were locked up.  During the Zoom call, the student had their audio and camera off while their sister in the other room had heard a gunshot, went to investigate, and immediately told their class and left the call. 

When Adan was quickly accompanied by police officers, he was still breathing. He passed away later at the hospital. A San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told ABC10, “The Lodi Unified School District acknowledged the impact the loss may have on students and staff.

Paul Warren, the Lodi Unified School District student support director, stated the district has seen an increasing number of anxious and depressed students, as students’ routines have been interrupted and aren’t able to socialize amid the pandemic. 

Student Anthony Orr, graduating with honors, had lost his life to suicide last year in August.  19 students in the Las Vegas Unified School District have passed away since July.  Dr. Susan Duffy, professor of pediatrics and emergency explains, “Across the country, we’re hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and death.”

Mental health and suicides are not just having a negative effect because of stress. Possible abusive homes in quarantine are causing it as well. The Washington Post stated that child abuse cases have plummeted because of COVID-19. These child abuse cases have dropped 62% lower between March and April comparing to this same time period last year. When cases are surfaced, they are brought up with severe injuries and in many cases, dying. 

With the social distancing rules in place, it is hard to see abuse behind closed doors. Social workers cannot speak to children as much because of these rules, causing more kid’s safety to be at risk. 

It’s important to reach out to friends, family members, or someone to confide in during a pandemic.  Hotlines instilled to help are the suicide prevention hotline 1-800-827-7571, LGBTQIA+ 1-888-843-4564, and Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-342-3720.

You are loved.  You are important.  You are strong.