By Nick Opsanic, staff writer
Over the past year, our world has seen so many changes, suffered so many losses, and experienced more confusion than anyone might possibly remember in past times. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic first gripped our world, so many things that we once took for granted like going out to dinner, visiting with friends and family, and even the most automatic functions of daily life as kids going to school has now become something very different than what it has always been.
Unlike pre-pandemic life, many, if not most students have had to learn to live their lives in new ways, changing their daily activities, participating in online learning programs and redefining what their life in a pandemic society will look like.
For countless people these changes, losses, and yes, even fears that accompany the COVID-19 Pandemic can affect everyone in negative ways, and children are certainly not immune from the virus, nor its adverse effects on their lives. According to the CDC, some of the challenges children face during the COVID-19 pandemic relate to:
- Changes in their routines (e.g., having to physically distance from family, friends, worship community)
- Breaks in continuity of learning (e.g., virtual learning environments, technology access and connectivity issues)
- Breaks in continuity of health care (e.g., missed well-child and immunization visits, limited access to mental, speech, and occupational health services)
- Missed significant life events (e.g., grief of missing celebrations, vacation plans, and/or milestone life events)
- Lost security and safety (e.g., housing and food insecurity, increased exposure to violence and online harms, threat of physical illness and uncertainty for the future)
The CDC states, “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect children and young people directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.”
Research shows that mental health and academic achievement are linked. Chronic stress changes the chemical and physical structure of the brain, impairing cognitive skills like attention, concentration, memory, and creativity. “You see deficits in your ability to regulate emotions in adaptive ways as a result of stress,” said Cara Wellman, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University in a 2014 interview. In her research, Wellman discovered that chronic stress causes the connections between brain cells to shrink in mice, leading to cognitive deficiencies in the prefrontal cortex.
Studies have shown that some people who have dealt with COVID-19 have developed PTSD or what officials are now calling it, Post-COVID Stress Disorder (PCSD). A study of nurses in China exposed to COVID-19 found a PTSD incidence of 16.8%, with highest scores in avoidance symptoms. A web-based, cross-sectional survey of more than 7,000 Chinese individuals in February 2020 found that health care workers had the highest rate of poor sleep, and those who are of age 35 years or younger had more mood and anxiety symptoms. About 35.1% of respondents reported anxiety symptoms, 20% depressive symptoms, and 18.2% poor sleep quality. These are serious cases and they can be provoked by the death of loved ones too, and/or sudden changes in lifestyles.
No matter who you are or how old you are, COVID-19 will affect you in many ways. You may not even realize that you are under a lot of stress which is where it is dangerous, if you don’t realize this, you most likely will not realize the changes happening in your brain because of this stress. If we work together, practice social distancing, wear masks whenever we go to places that aren’t our own homes, sanitize everything, and wash our hands for 20 seconds, COVID will soon be part of the past.
Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School