West Ottawa could reduce post-Covid stress

West Ottawa could reduce post-Covid stress

Alejandra Antron Ramos

After over a year of online school due to Covid-19, it was finally time for Jr. Madisyn Uribe to go back to in person school. With her registration info in hand, she walked into her high school excited to register for the new school year. After 30 minutes in the loud, overcrowded cafeteria, her anxiety took over.

As Uribe waited on the curb outside, she called her mom and told her there was no way she was going to do in person school. Uribe isn’t the only student having trouble facing her anxiety after Covid-19. An increase of anxiety has happened to students all over America. Regardless, schools aren’t recognizing it for the escalating issue that it is, more specifically, West Ottawa High School.

When talking about Covid-19, many people don’t mention how it mentally affected teenagers. More precisely, how it affected anxiety levels.  While Covid-19 was at its prime, it had students locked in their houses for months on end. Students were isolated and only able to have human contact over screens. Many families suffered financially as well. Because of this, many students worsened mentally. They began experiencing anxiety, or for those who already had it, it was increased.

Many students state that going to online school has permanently affected their academic ability due to escalating anxiety. A freshman at West Ottawa said, “It [Covid-19] was so overwhelming to me which made me anxious, and another cycle started. That was probably the worst academic year of my life so far.” Students went through a pandemic that generations before them didn’t have to deal with. Despite this, students are treated the same way. Students are not offered flexibility or resources to deal with new profound mental illness.

“Just go see a therapist”, is a statement often made when mental health decline is brought up. Many people don’t realize the shame individuals might feel when asking for help. “I sometimes feel like I’m a burden, or that people don’t get it and think I’m being lazy.” was stated by a West Ottawa Sr.. A great deal of students feel similarly. This often becomes an obstacle and discourages students from wanting to ask for help. The fear of being called “sensitive, lazy, whiny, a burden or hassle”, as well as many other terms, stop students from asking for help.

Students are being pushed to their limits, encouraged to put their academics above

everything. New levels of anxiety to manage on top of academic pressure can cause teens to feel as though their self-care is not as dire. “I end up going on autopilot and complete a bunch of tasks that I have even if it means that I get 3 hours of sleep or end up struggling with personal care.” Sr. Mariah Stewart said. With the immense pressure of her senior year, on top of her new anxiety she is trying to manage, Stewart, and many other high schoolers, are set up for failure. It’s simply unfair that today’s generation of teenagers had to go through a worldwide pandemic that forever changed them, and are receiving the same treatment as every other generation. Having anxiety to the point where basic needs are not met is not normal. It is not okay for students to feel “isolated and trapped”, as stated by a West Ottawa student.

One’s teenage years are their most primitive and impactful years, shaping them into the person they will become. So for students to be isolated for over a year, and then expected to go back to normal after such a drastic pause in their development, is unrealistic.

The school system often adds to the anxiety of teens. West Ottawa High School has a decent amount of resources, but it isn’t enough. Many students suffering from anxiety are too anxious to ask for help whether it be their physician, a trusted adult, or the school counselors. For someone that has to deal with anxiety for smaller things, such as ordering food, going to someone and confessing that they don’t feel okay mentally can be petrifying.

Having anxiety has often been referred to as “a vicious cycle that is almost impossible to get out of.” Due to the alarmingly increasing rate of students with unmanageable anxiety that is affecting their academic performances, it is the schools responsibility to offer some sort of resource that will help students cope with their anxieties.


Solutions West Ottawa could implement

A room with therapy dogs for students to go to escape their stressful realities is one highly requested resource many students feel would aid them. West Ottawa’s Great Lakes Elementary School was gifted a therapy dog from the senior class of 2019. “Our job as a school and organization is to meet kids where they’re at and support them. We want to do everything we can to help students find success at school, and I believe Milo [the therapy dog] will play a part in the success of some of our students.” was stated by the Former Great Lakes Elementary Principal, David Stefanich. Many of the young students were instantly filled with joy. Both teachers and students were excited to have Milo joining them. If kids under 12 can have a therapy dog to ease their stress, then high schoolers that have their futures in their hands surely deserve one too.

Elementary students get 20-30 minutes of recess everyday. Recess is the highlight of their days. It relieves their stress and allows them to just hang out and play with their friends. In turn, they are prepared to continue learning for the remainder of their school day because of the break. High school students still deserve the right to recess. Maybe not necessarily 25 minutes in a playground, but a break where they can walk around outside, hang out with friends, or even just chill in the library on their phones. Having to do school work for 7 hours straight with just one 30 minute break for lunch, is simply unjustifiable. For West Ottawa High School, on the non-seminar days, they could implement a 30 minute break in place where seminar would go. A short break in the middle of the school day would be an easy solution that would drastically change the attitude of many students come around 5th or 6th hour.

A large amount of teens’ anxiety comes from school, so it is only fair that the school recognizes this and offers some sort of resolution if they truly prioritize the well-being of their students. Covid-19 has affected billions of people worldwide. Being in their primary years that shape them, teenagers have undoubtedly earned the recognition and aid to help manage their new profound anxiety.