What The Coming of Spring Holds for Teen Mental Health – A Letter from a Staff Member

Photo+Credit%3A+Odette+Ion%0AAs+bulbs+start+forming+on+trees+and+the+days+get+brighter%2C+teenagers+should+celebrate+making+it+through+the+roughest+season+-+and+a+whole+year+-+in+the+middle+of+pandemic.+It+has+been+a+hard+fought+battle+for+the+many+of+us%3B+hopefully+the+warmer+skies+and+longer+days+allow+for+more+socially-distanced+social+activities%2C+encourage+more+positive+moods%2C+and+help+some+of+us+rediscover+our+identities%2C+which+may+feel+lost+in+a+world+so+far+from+normal.

Photo Credit: Odette Ion As bulbs start forming on trees and the days get brighter, teenagers should celebrate making it through the roughest season – and a whole year – in the middle of pandemic. It has been a hard fought battle for the many of us; hopefully the warmer skies and longer days allow for more socially-distanced social activities, encourage more positive moods, and help some of us rediscover our identities, which may feel lost in a world so far from normal.

Josephine Kinlan, Social Media Editor/Contributing Writer, New York NY

About this time last March, New York City public school students had just been notified that school would be closed for the next five weeks. I remember my friend calling me over the phone, saying “Five weeks – that’s crazy?!”

At the time, hearing “five weeks” had not really fazed me; it just seemed like a nice, refreshing hiatus from school, especially considering that the workload was lightening up because honestly, no one had any clue how to adapt. Little did I know what the next twelve months would hold for us. 

If you have struggled with adapting to remote learning, caring for your mental health, or just rectifying with some weird feelings that this whole experience has wrought on – believe me, you are not alone. In fact, I do not think I know anyone who hasn’t struggled at some point or another through this. According to Healthline and Mental Health America, teenage mental health has worsened due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Those with mental health disorders have had their symptoms exacerbated, meanwhile many have developed new ones as a result of isolation and not being able to see or interact with friends.

I remember, in particular, wondering about my identity – more specifically, my personality. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the personality I exuded in pre-COVID social situations was only ever really built off of interaction, and – quite often – references to pop culture. During quarantine, I started to wonder if I even had a personality, or if I just acted in accordance with those around me. It was a scary thing to think that I had abandoned a sense of originality.

If you too have asked this question or felt this panic at the thought of abandoning originality, fear not and just try to understand: personality depends on the situations you are in, and considering many of us have not been in situations recently, it has been hard for us to express ourselves. Not all familial settings allow for the greatest expression of one’s personality; many have adapted to lifestyles where they mainly sustain themselves and complete what work needs to be done in order to get by. The reality is a saddening one, but it reminds many of us to be grateful for the objects and experiences we do have.

In retrospect, this past year has taught us all a lot about value and expression, probably more than we would have understood if we had been continuing with “normal” (what even is that anymore?) Maybe one could even say it caused a faster maturity than we would have experienced. Hopefully, as the days grow longer and the list of assignments grows shorter with just a few months left of school, we can return to social situations and rediscover our identities and reconnect with friends. Maybe we can even take some of the mature knowledge many have garnered and weave it into our lives, and our plans for the future.

If all of that sounds a bit overwhelming right now, that is completely understandable too. As young teenagers and students constantly being tasked assignments, it can be difficult to stay present in the moment; practicing mindfulness and meditation can have very positive effects, however. All in all, I just want to reach out to anyone who feels as though they have lost a proper sense of themselves and does not really know how to define their identity anymore. As the social situations return and the sun shines warmer, that concept of self should return, or at least reformulate. We are all doing really well right now for it being such a hard time – really. So here is your reminder that it is okay to not be okay, but that the near future looks promising.