You’re Not Alone

As we continue through lockdown in NYC, everything is still uncertain. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, next week, let alone in the next month or so. While we focus on the physical health of the people around us, let’s not forget about those struggling mentally. They’re battling a lot right now, too.

When asking around to see how people have been struggling and managing their mental health, it seems as though there isn’t much to do. Many students struggle with anxiety and quarantine has only made it worse. 

“I already stress about things that I can’t control in my life so now with a pandemic, there’s a lot more that I can’t control,” said Brianna Chavez, a Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) junior drama major.

Uncertainty creates fear and fear is a leading symptom of mental health disorders, like anxiety.

Ms. Jessica, FSSA’s Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) counselor works with students struggling with mental health, among other things. Having to switch to online learning was different for her, especially when it comes to reading and better understanding her students.

“Remote therapy/counseling has its limitations, especially when holding sessions via phone. Non-verbal communication is a critical component of counseling and this can be lost or limited when speaking over the phone,” she said. “I strongly believe that nonverbal behavior plays a significant role in establishing and strengthening the therapeutic relationship. Emotions and attitudes are primarily conveyed through nonverbal communication and you learn more from an individual’s gestures than from the words being spoken.” 

Students appreciate the confidentiality of in-person meetings with their therapists/guidance counselors. It’s harder for them to open up when they’re at home.

Brianna says that it can be a little weird expressing her feelings to a counselor, wondering if her siblings are eavesdropping.

Another junior, Tess, also said that she can’t open up as much about things with her guidance counselor because of the proximity of her family members.

Other students, like senior drama major Sophia Tolli said that online calls don’t make you feel as connected. That’s led to kids hiding their feelings and not expressing themselves completely, piling up more onto the students and even making it harder for counselors to provide support. 

Ms. Jessica tries to be present in her student’s quarantined life by staying consistent with her weekly meetings with her students. She says that through the start of quarantine she has shifted her focus to a naturally heightened sensitivity to stress. She also works with students on difficulty finding distractions, increased anxiety, loss of in-person interaction and a disruption to the formation of their identity 

As for what students have been doing to better their health (mentally and physically), some have taken up multiple hobbies. Brianna journals her feelings every night and says it’s provided another outlet for her to express herself.

A lot of students have taken up baking, which some have become really good at. Senior drama majors Emily Tolli and Katelyn Villacres have said that focusing on college work has helped lower their stress and kept them positive for the future. Katelyn is majoring in computer science and says that joining coding classes was something that helped her fall even more in love with her major. 

While we try to stay hopeful and positive (and safe!) things will get the best of us sometimes. Ms. Jessica had some final words and advice to provide for those trying to find themselves amidst this pandemic:

“Radical acceptance encourages [the students] to stay with their emotions rather than fighting them. You tell yourself it’s okay to feel anxious right now. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel angry. You’re accepting the feelings you have and validating them because we’re all having those feelings,” she said.

– by Jasmine Aly ‘20