Students, staff experience mental health decline due to pandemic, winter months


Ella Underwood, Editor in Chief

Many students are feeling the effects of seasonal depression, but they now also face lingering effects due the pandemic, including a decline in mental health.

Mental Health America states that over half a million people have experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety between January of 2020 and September of 2020.

Out of 120 students polled at Plainfield South, 64.2% state they experience seasonal depression, 76.7% state they are experiencing a decline in their mental health due to the restrictions and isolations caused by COVID-19, and over half of them rate their mental health a five or less.

Graham Miller, junior, has his own experiences regarding mental health during the pandemic.

“The people that are more indifferent to covid seem to be happier – they see restrictions as meaning more freedoms. Those who care about their safety seem to be doing worse lately, sometimes just to the point of being bored and sometimes becoming depressed,” Miller said.

Grace Guglielmi, junior, also weighs in with her own experiences over the past couple of years.

“I get stressed very easily and always feel at least somewhat on edge. As I’ve come to realize this, I’ve been trying to take my day-to-day life slowly and enjoy all the little moments in my life rather than living in the fear of my mind,” Guglielmi said.

Both Miller and Guglielmi notice their peers struggling.

The students are not the only ones greatly affected by the changes over the last two years.  Teachers are as well.

Jeff Jarot, English and creative writing teacher, discusses the effects he feels along with his sympathy for students and fellow staff.

“I feel like as far as the teachers are concerned, I feel like I don’t see them very often in person, one on one. Teachers aren’t dropping in and saying hi, which I miss,” Jarot said.
Jarot also shares his advice for students who are struggling with their mental health, showing support in their endeavor.

“I would tell them that they are not alone, and if it is very severe to tell an adult,” Jarot said.

From a professional point of view, Eric Mueller, one of South’s social workers, explains how the winter months affects humans, along with why isolation has taken a hit on everyone.

“During the winter months the sun goes away. It gets cold. It gets darker earlier and stays darker longer. That’s counterintuitive to what everybody knows is good for you. We all thrive in the summer; we thrive in the sunshine, [and] we thrive when we are around our friends,” Mueller said.

Mueller states he is also dealing with his own struggles with the pandemic along with many other mental health professionals.

Mental Health America states that 78% of mental health professionals are suffering from burnout and 16% of psychiatrists are screened for major depression. With the pandemic, the demand for virtual therapy has gone up by 302% as well.

“It’s been a reminder to me as a mental health professional that it is critical to take care of yourself because especially as a mental health professional, being a positive support person I have to take care of myself and that really tuned me up,” Mueller said.

If students are struggling, they can seek help from a trusted adult or call the crisis hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).