Online mode of education and its impact on mental health

5 Jan 2022

Curtain Hug

As we approach the third wave of the pandemic, the current living situations feel like a surreal dream. I remember how having no physical classes and robot teachers used to be one of the fantasies attached to “the future”, much like time travel. Now while time travel remains a far off idea, online classes sure have made an appearance. And not just appeared but thrived under the hands of the COVID virus, as it steers us towards a no contact world.
The pandemic is stressful in all aspects and the most is evident in the lives of the students. Our world adapted quickly, to make up for the academic losses during the initial lockdown period. Suddenly the students, who were used to peer-to-peer learning, were pushed into isolation and long hours of staring at the screens and speaking into the void. While some students definitely benefited from the online mode, the same cannot be true for all of them.
The stress starts from the eyes. The windows to the soul become a broad doorway, albeit wide open, to the tremendous amount of glares and barely zoomed in screens. It slowly migrates to the headaches, stiff necks, unused muscles, etc. Physical and mental health have always had a connection. Disturbances to one eventually lead to the other. So we do not realize when the headaches turn into nauseating feelings and reduce us to a bundle of nerves.
Anxiety, depression, paranoia, irritable/short-tempered behavior, confused state, sudden onset of dark thoughts, etc. are all tell-tale signs of deteriorating mental health. They are increasingly being noticed in the students.
According to the American College Health Association, some of the factors that students report as ‘impairing to academic performance’ include anxiety, depression, stress, alcohol and drugs. The students who are normally on the edge of physical fatigue are now also pushed to the edge of mental burnout.
The impact is seen on their academic performance, interests and physical status. The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, states few symptoms in the academic performance that indicates poor mental health: Late assignments, Sudden deterioration in quality of work, Discussion post contents are: Bizarre, fantastical, paranoid, disruptive, confused, or show disorientation, Not returning emails or phone calls, Not turning in work at all, Ongoing display of anxiety about assignments, Content of work becomes negative/dark/odd in tone.
The transition from offline to online turned out to be too quick. It is even more difficult to keep track of the mental status of the students through the computer screen.
Dr.Kannan Gireesh, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, has a very interesting thing to say in this respect, “Building friendships is very important especially in the lower age groups, which gives them security and self-esteem that gives them a sense of belonging.”
Where during offline school/education, the students were under the observation of not only the teachers, but even the non-teaching faculty, peers, sanitation workers, bus drivers, etc. also played a huge role in keeping an eye on them; the online mode leaves the students unobserved, to themselves. The students today have gone through so much, from being isolated to watching their elders crumble under the illness to even losing close relatives.
It is a huge responsibility of the faculty, parents and other family members, to keep a track on their students and their physical and mental health status. Bonny Barr, from the Creighton University states that 75% of the mental illnesses start at the young age before 24. Therefore, early intervention holds the key between burnt-out, impulsive and jittery young minds and a healthy, holistically developed young adult.
The pandemic, though a huge crushing blow, surely has taught the extreme importance of mental health balance. Especially with the students and young employees. The workloads on both can and should be equally distributed out to ensure the fatigue does not happen. It is up to us to take up appropriate measures to ensure they do not fall into the vicious circle of mental health illness that leave the man suffering from inside out.

-Gargi Khandwe