Opinion: Mental health should be a bigger priority during quarantine


The transition to online learning has been hard for many VHS students who find it difficult to stay motivated. Photo by: Anna Guerra

Anna Guerra

Sure, academics are important, but what’s the use of passing your math quiz if you can’t get out of bed?

VUSD announced its closure of all schools and programs on March 12, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Originally, it seemed like school would be back in session right after spring break. After all, at the time Ventura County only had one presumptive positive case. But as time went on, it was announced that students would not be returning to school for the remainder of the school year.

Coronavirus has brought forward some unwanted secondary effects. Being mandated to stay at home sounds nice and relaxing until it’s day 73 of quarantine and you’ve made friends with the popcorn ceiling in your mom’s bedroom. Many can find themselves falling out of their usual routine and developing feelings of sadness, uncertainty, angst, and fear. Those who were already struggling with their mental health before the pandemic may feel that their state of mind has worsened. The CDC and other reliable sources reassure that in such uncertain and unprecedented times it’s normal to feel all of these things.

What doesn’t seem normal is the idea that students are expected to carry on with school as if everything is fine and dandy. Of course, an effort should be made to continue with classes, but it feels as if significantly more work is being assigned than if school was still in session.

Senior Marisol Matehuala shared her thoughts on staying home, “There are good and bad days. I don’t mind the fact that we have to stay indoors, the only issue is not being able to go to school or spend time with my friends. My mental health already wasn’t great to begin with, but the transition to online classes has been very difficult since I don’t really have the motivation to do it.”

On the brighter side, Matehuala has introduced some beneficial activities into her lifestyle. “Because my time in culinary class was cut short, I’ve been trying to cook and bake as much as I can. I have also started working out which has been really fun.”

VHS teacher Sebastien Declerck voiced his concerns via email about the disconnect from teacher to student, noting that despite emails and phone calls home, he has not been able to communicate with all of his students, and there’s some that he hasn’t heard from since school closed. “Of the students I have heard from I have gotten a wide spectrum of answers, but one commonality: none of them characterize themselves as doing well,” said DeClerck. “Some are bored, some are lost, some are lethargic. Many are stressed out and confused.”

In an effort to help balance his students’ emotional well-being and learning, DeClerck is one of the teachers that have introduced alternative learning options. One of these options is Canvas, a learning platform where teachers can regulate and create new material, as opposed to Edgenuity’s premade modules. DeClerck added that for his students who weren’t learning from either online platform he set up the option to self-create a curriculum, where students use online tools and media of their choosing. Additionally, Declerck asked that his students limit the time they spend on learning French each day to 35-60 minutes so as to not overwhelm themselves.

As parting advice, DeClerck advised, “Do not stress about the grades. We [forget] that school is never supposed to be about the grades, it’s about the learning. Communicate with your teachers, they care and want to help you. And lastly, do something for fun. Go for a walk, talk to your friends, read a good book for fun.”

The final verdict? Your wellbeing comes first. At the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your own needs and limits. Chances are that your teachers are flexible and willing to work with you. As we continue to navigate through the school year know that help is available should you need it.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, to say the least, during quarantine. Many mental health experts have recommendations for feeling better. Here are a few of them. Infographic by: Anna Guerra.