How Does Online School Affect Mental Health?


Students logging in. Photography from: Tribune Content Agency LLC, Chicago, 2020. eLibrary.

Online school has been designed for students to learn safely during a pandemic, but learning online has also affected students’ mental health. Some students state that online school has helped with their anxiety and overall mental health, whereas others say that online school has affected their mental health in a negative way. 

Some students in a zoom class. Photography by: Hayley Durrant.

Many students have become overwhelmed with handling their health, family, and school work. The pandemic has put a lot of stress on students whose parents have lost their jobs due to the decline in the economy and students who have to look after their younger siblings while doing their own school work. 

“Students also express higher levels of anxiety and depression and those who have struggled to engage and find the motivation to learn online,” said the HBHS Wellness staff. The online school makes it easier to get distracted because many students do not have an authoritative figure to tell them to stay on task, causing many to disengage and miss important information. 

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have put out ways to cope with mental distress resulting from the pandemic and the “new normal.” These exercises will help students calm down and relax. They recommend first to demonstrate deep breathing; this will help with calming the nervous system. Then, it is advised to focus on the positive, using this time to spend time with family and keep negative thoughts away. It is also important to establish and maintain a daily routine; this provides a sense of control and well being. Students can contact the HBHS Wellness Center through the school website for additional information. 

Protecting Mental Health during an Epidemic. Photography from: Agence France-Presse, Washington, 2020. eLibrary.

“The HBHS Wellness Center has consistently seen an increase in requests for counseling over the past several years,” said the HBHS Wellness staff. Though the online school has affected many students’ mental health in a negative way, there are some who have been impacted positively. 

“Some students say they have felt better with online school, mainly because they had struggled with anxiety in the past with large groups, passing periods, and other social anxiety,” said the HBHS Wellness staff. Online school has helped students with less anxiety when it comes to assignments and tests. 

“When starting online school, I have been less stressed about finishing assignments and online school has also allowed me to focus on myself,” said Tyler Durrant, a student at HBHS. Online school has allowed students to have more time in the day to do things they love, like sports, baking, reading, watching movies, and spending time with family. The extra time has given some students the ability to focus more on the positive aspects of online school and the pandemic. 

“Will going back to school help with students’ mental health or make it worse? It’s hard to say how going back to school will affect students’ mental health because this is an unprecedented situation and it will depend on the individual student’s experience,” said the HBHS Wellness staff. Going back to school can help some students get back into their normal routine, have easier access to lessons and support, and allow them to feel connected with their peers again. On the other hand, for other students, school will not be the same as it was pre-COVID, and the transition from online school will probably cause anxiety. When going back to school, students may feel stress about their health and safety, as they will be exposed to higher chances of getting COVID-19.

If students need mental health support while going back to school, they will have access to the Wellness Center. There, they can speak to a trusted adult and get the proper help and counseling they need. If working online, students can also access the Wellness Center counselors through their website, No matter how students are learning, there are ways for them to get support and learn about strategies to stay mentally healthy.