by Sydney Hooyerfirstname.lastname@example.org
Although the orders for citizens to stay home and social distance themselves are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, social distancing has been massively disruptive to people’s lives, and for many, has been intensely stressful. As government officials take action to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with physically ill patients, some citizens’ mental health has taken a turn for the worse. No one knows when the pandemic will end, or when everyone’s lives will go back to normal again.
According to Jeanetta Nieuwsma, Pella Christian’s part-time counselor, some contributors to poorer mental health in this time are lack of contact with friends and extended family, a different routine, missing out on school activities, being cooped up, and reduced mental health access. “Socially distancing from friends and family can increase loneliness and create an ‘I’m on my own’ mindset, which can definitely affect our mental health. Many people are feeling the effects of this pandemic, and those with pre-existing mental health concerns are particularly vulnerable,” said Nieuwsma.
With so many unknowns and changed routines, some people are experiencing heightened stress and fear, which can cause sleep disturbance, irritability, depressed mood, and anxiety. “Feeling anxious is a normal response during a pandemic, but if symptoms become unmanageable, it can interfere with daily activities and task completion,” explained Nieuwsma.
Since students are not physically present on campus, PC has been working to check up on them in others ways while they learn online. Guidance counselor Brad Engbers has worked to ensure that those having a difficult time understand that teachers, counselors, and administrators want to assist them in however they can. “This week a group of us who are responsible for student support have been calling each family to check on how students are handling the adjustment to online learning. As we expected, some students are adjusting very well, and some are having a difficult time,” said Engbers.
Another way that students can find help is by connecting to Nieuwsma, who is still available to speak to students. Most counseling agencies are also able to provide telecounseling services, and PC families can still take advantage of three free sessions at Pine Rest. Nieuwsma has also been sending tips to all PCHS students on how to take care of mental health during this time of social isolation.
Although not everyone is struggling with maintaining good mental health, and some people are actually thriving while they embrace the down time and laid back schedules, it is important for everyone to take care of their mental health during these times.
Some practical tips Nieuwsma gave are to get nine hours of sleep each night, limit screen time, get active for at least one hour a day, and go outside. She also encourages students to remember they are not alone and reach out to a trusted adult to talk about how they are feeling.
Lastly, Nieuwsma wants everyone to find hope in knowing that our God is near and bigger than all of this. “Open God’s word and find truths that are comforting. Write them down, read them daily, and post them in places where you will notice throughout the day. If you have persistent fears, write those down on a piece of paper and put them in your Bible–giving them to God–or crumple them up and throw them in the trash–throwing them away. Each day find time to pray and journal three things that you are grateful for,” said Nieuwsma.
Contact information for mental health help:
Pella Pine Rest telecounseling appointments–641-628-9599
Crossroads of Pella mental health hotline–641-629-0019
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline–1-800-273-8255;
National Suicide Prevention chat link