COVID-19 pandemic takes emotional toll on teenagers

Natalie Edmonds, Co-Editor

As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues with no vaccine, teenagers across the world have been forced to adjust to a severely restricted social scene.

With constantly changing social distancing guidelines, and the emphasis on mask-wearing, teenagers must be creative in navigating new ways to spend time with friends in a safe setting. 

Sophomore Counselor and Director of Health and Wellness Rebecca Damron says the lack of human interaction for teenagers has taken an immense toll on their emotional wellness.

“Teenagers in particular are biologically wired to start building connections and networks outside of their community,” Damron said. “This is a crucial time in figuring out who they are, but teenagers have been cut off from that critical opportunity of developing their identity.”

Damron offers an outlet for the loneliness some may feel in the pandemic, through the Instagram page @bmchswellness. Here, she posts IGTVs, or Instagram episodes, where she discusses various mental health topics that teenagers are experiencing at this time. 

“My goal is to provide a familiar face and connection for kids who are lacking the everyday interactions that contribute to our mental wellness,” Damron said. “I wanted to normalize everyone’s feelings and experiences because that’s always my No. 1 priority, and especially in this pandemic, since we can feel very isolated and alone.” 

I want to normalize everyone’s feelings and experiences because that’s always my No.1 priority, and especially in this pandemic, since we can feel very isolated and alone.

— Director of Health and wellness and sophomore counselor Rebecca Damron

Some students have chosen to make significant sacrifices to their social life, in hopes of keeping the community safe and slowing the spread of the virus. Senior Catie Leonard has committed to strict social distancing since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I think that wearing a mask shows respect for human life and each other,” Leonard said. “As Catholics, this is what we are called to do. This is a time that young people can play a vital role in keeping the virus from spreading and saving the lives of so many.” 

The freshmen entered a high school environment far different from what they had always expected. Coming from over 20 feeder schools, the pandemic has placed a massive barrier on their opportunity to adjust to a normal high school setting with 170 new classmates.

Freshman Class President Alex Ille knew that part of leading her class was uniting it, despite the fact that social distancing has impacted their ability to meet new people. With the annual Mean Green Fling cancelled and freshman orientation restricted to small groups, the class of 2024 has had limited opportunities to be together.

“I hope the class will take advantage of the opportunities to talk to each other, even when wearing masks and social distancing, to make our freshman year somewhat normal,” Ille said. “Joining clubs and sports is really important to build a base of a community, so I would encourage my classmates to get involved in any way possible.” 

Seniors have been looking forward to various milestones since they began their freshman year, but have now had to accept the fact that those events may not turn out as expected. Leonard, an active member of the drama department, was excited for her final role in the performance of “Faith County”. The cast of the play has since had to reimagine the performance, casting additional understudies and scheduling extra performance times.

“We are rehearsing with masks and keeping our distance as best as possible,” Leonard said. “It is very exciting that we are able to do the play at all. Even with a small cast, it’s fun to still have a little bit of normalcy while staying safe.”

Damron acknowledged that teenagers will instinctively want to socialize how they would in a pandemic-free world. That is not a reality at the moment, so she offered some suggestions and creative outlets for students to be safe and still maintain a social life.

“Doing more outdoor activities is an amazing way to practice social distancing and be with your friends,” Damron said. “It’s important to have those friends who are willing to follow the guidelines in order to keep everyone safe, along with finding creative ways to do so. Make it fun and socially acceptable to do these things, and hold yourself accountable to be safe because we all need human connection right now.”