The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted not only physical health but also the mental health of students.
The first three cases of Covid-19 in Bangladesh were detected on March 8, 2020. Like other countries, the government of Bangladesh declared a general shutdown across the country to reduce the transmission of this virus in March. All educational institutions have also been closed as a measure to prevent the virus from spreading, starting from March 17, 2020.
The crisis has affected the mental health of students to a great extent. At first, the closure of the educational institutions felt like a vacation to the students but as time passes and the condition becomes severe, they fell into deep uncertainty.
The pandemic has disrupted their daily routine, discipline and structure of their everyday life. Students are experiencing an extended period of physical distance from their friends, teachers, neighbours, relatives and so on. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and distress are rising widely among them because of this long-term isolation.
Schoolgoing children are more fun-loving. Besides studying in school, they like to engage in many extracurricular activities with their peers. They are not able to play outdoor games and not able to engage in the in-person school activities due to the pandemic.
They have been suffering from loneliness, which hinders their mental development. It is difficult for most of the parents to give proper psychological counselling to their children.
This pandemic has caused a severe shrinking of economic activities. As a result, people of lower and middle-income classes have been experiencing a drop in income. Most of the families are facing an economic crisis in this situation. This crisis changes the behaviour of parents, which in turn hampers the mental health of their children.
On April 10, 2020, a girl aged 10 years from Sirajganj committed suicide because she was scolded by her father for asking for food. Her father has a small loom factory which was closed during the general shutdown. According to the report of Child Helpline-1098, almost 70 suicidal adolescents, mostly girls, received psychosocial counselling from them from April to August 2020.
An alarming rise in poverty and unemployment has pushed up the number of child marriages in this crucial moment. Undoubtedly, child marriage, early pregnancies and multiple responsibilities are a threat to both the physical and mental health of a girl.
University students are not being able to sit for their final examinations and experience uncertainty and anxiety about their future because of this long-term closure of educational institutions. Although the government tried to introduce online or virtual learning programmes to continue studies, students living in rural areas are not able to cope with this learning method for lack of adequate internet connectivity and access to required devices such as computers, smartphones, etc.
This incapability leads to an extra emotional burden on them. Many university students take private tuition as a mean to financially support themselves and their families but that could be lost as a result of the closure of educational institutions.
The financial crisis of the family, relationship crisis, lack of personal space at home, fear of infection may lead to growth of hopelessness, frustration, anxiety, annoyance, anger and nervousness among students.
These feelings in turn may lead to a change in their eating habits, sleeping habits, increased negative thoughts about the future, and even increased suicidal thoughts. Personal conflict with family members, addiction to the internet, treachery in virtual relationships, cybercrimes are also growing widely because of commotion.
A recent study, titled "The Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health of University Student: A Cross-Sectional Study in Bangladesh", revealed that out of 544 respondents, about 78 percent of the students were affected by mental disorder in the Covid-19 pandemic. The study also found that female students were at higher risk of developing mental illness than male students.
Some proactive measures should be taken in order to support the mental health of students during this pandemic. In fact, students can help themselves by connecting through conversation and by sharing their thoughts with their friends.
A secure family environment is indispensable for children's mental development, which can be provided by their parents. The government and other concerned authorities can introduce mental health literacy programmes through the media for the development of the mental health of students.
*The author is an undergraduate student of the Department of Economics, Noakhali Science and Technology University
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.