A student-run effort to address mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to Bayonne.
Petra Ghaly, a senior at Bayonne High School, is the Student Representative to the Board of Education. At the Dec. 10 meeting, Ghaly announced that the student government is working on a series of programs about student mental health.
Attending school amid the chaos of 2020 has been a challenge for students. The school district has been operating remotely, under virtual instruction.
Maintaining good mental health has never been more important amid the life changes, isolation, and death caused by the pandemic.
The school district is currently dealing with the loss of five faculty and staff: Judith Lee, Mary Rose Appel, Dottie Fekety, Kathy Kelder, and Robert Sicado. At the meeting, the board observed a moment of silence in their memory.
The trauma of loss, isolation, and other pandemic-related stressors has taken a toll on students.
Help is on the way
“Mental health problems, including stress-related disorders, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse have been described in high schoolers during the pandemic,” Ghaly said.
Prior to the pandemic, anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of students were expected to need mental health support, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The APA anticipates the percentage will be much higher now given the emotional fallout of the pandemic.
“In short, quarantine, trauma, and grief during the COVID-19 pandemic further increases the risk of mental health problems,” Ghaly said.
She wants students suffering from mental health issues to know they are not alone and help is on the way.
“To those students: we hear you, we support you, and know that there are resources for you,” Ghaly said.
According to Ghaly, the Student Center supports the idea of mental health programming and is working with the student government to bring it to life as soon as possible. She said she will update the board as plans finalize.
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