For the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewing mental health experts about teens. My editor asked for an article that isn’t tied to COVID, but it’s hard to avoid that topic in our conversations. These experts are predicting serious problems festering in the dark bedrooms of teens nation-wide. When (and if) the school doors open in September, mental health will be more important than academics.
These are tough conversations. I’ve never had to build in recovery time into a work schedule before, but I need that time now. I’m sick with worry.
But I don’t need those interviews to hear bad stories. The mainstream media is finally talking about it. Some examples can be found on my open tabs on my computer right now:
- Parents of kids with ADHD are drugging them up with attention meds, so they can deal with remote education. I’ve also heard anecdotal stories that parents of autistic kids have had to drug them up for anxiety, because they are so stressed without routines and contact with human beings.
- An article in the NYT about the despair of young people.
- An opinion piece about teachers’ union’s role in the shutdowns. It starts with a spot-on discussion of school board meetings in NJ and has useful facts about mental health.
- Trump’s position in the GOP is solid. (Ugh!) Has school closures helped to contribute to Trump support?
- From Vox: “And if educators and their unions don’t embrace the established science, they risk continuing to widen gaps in educational attainment — and losing the support of their many long-time allies, like me.” I’m an epidemiologist and a father. Here’s why I’m losing patience with our teachers’ unions.
Our school district is currently in hybrid mode — kids have half a day of in-person school every other day. So, that means that five and six year old get six to nine hours of in-person school every week. On a good week. If the school closes to quarantine, they might go two or more weeks with no in-person school.
According to our mayor’s Facebook book, 16 people in our town tested positive last week. We have 25,000 residents. So, that means that school have been in hybrid mode in town with a less than 1 percent infection rate. In addition, since March, there have no been no documented cases that a single person has caught the infection in any one of the ten schools in our town.
Meanwhile, parents are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. What to do about it? My methods are to write, tweet, and give speeches at school board meetings. I can’t hide behind vague sentiments like “kids are resilient.”
But I also can’t swim in this sadness pool all day. It’s too much. I have to take care of my own family and just survive. So, despite this rather freaked out blog post, I’m doing fine. I’m posting happy pictures on Instagram of cooking and date nights. I’m going out with girlfriends for one last hurrah, before we give up wine for Lent; we’re paying Jonah to Uber us to a lovely wine bar about twenty minutes from here.
How do you balance your concern for the world with sanity?