By Vaani Barmola & Nanaki J. Chadha | Aug 24, 2020, 3:13 PM IST

The Psychological Challenges Being Faced by Students due to Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic that surfaced from Wuhan, China resulting from a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection or COVID-19 has in its wake ensued a socio-economic calamity, setting ‘sense of security’ on fire causing mass hysteria thereby disrupting the psychological well-being of mankind.

Despite the lockdowns, the number of COVID-19 cases in India continue to surge at a rapid rate with several thousands of critically ill patients being admitted to hospitals daily. As healthcare professionals stand on the line of defense, the rest of the world hangs in a limbo battling hysteria, misinformation, monotony, and panic. In the current scenario, mental health suffers irreparably as every individual becomes an island battling his or her own grievances, despite being sheltered under their safe havens. Among the deeply impacted is also the large population of students in India and across the globe alike, trying to rein in the youthful exuberance that burns into hostility, turmoil and violent outbursts with each passing day. The empty playgrounds, vacant cafeterias, forlorn malls and educational institutions standing still in pin drop silence, hints at the destructive agony the youths suffer in today’s quarantined reality.

Suffering the looming unpredictability from the confines of their homes over the past few months has left students across the country feeling extremely stressed, experiencing immense anxiety and disappointment.Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the psychological challenges being faced by most of the students of our nation in order to support them efficiently during these challenging times. The major psychological challenges that students battle today with are as follows:

Stress and Anxiety. With nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait for the virus to die, the overactive human brain is bound to short circuit while mulling over a thousand things that didn’t go as planned. With mid-way cancellation of final board examinations and now the university and entrance examinations hanging in balance, has crushed students with unanswered questions and further resulted in them experiencing exaggerated amounts of anxiety. For students with international study plans, the lockdowns have been like a hammer to their well curated plans. In the light of the pandemic, with increasing unemployment and economic disruption, suddenly academics and career prospects don’t seem so foolproof.

In India, the rapid digitalization of educational services in the face of an inadequate infrastructure resulting in connectivity glitches and cyber insecurity has been a significant issue garnering concern. The overnight shift to making classes online without considering the immense digital divide has also been a major stressor. Although, the educational institutions have easily transitioned to the online medium to continue teaching, a significant question that arises is – are the students actually learning?

Caught amidst attending virtual classes, experiencing connectivity issues coupled with long hours of screen time is causing eye damage and a perpetual state of tiredness called zoom fatigue among students. On top of this, there is constant pressure on students to learn and grow independently in the absence of their teachers and peers. Thus, students are tightly strung to keep things afloat. In addition, all this stress is manifesting itself among students through hostility, irritability, mood swings, dysfunctional sleeping and eating cycles.

With the insane death numbers and the fraudulent data flooding the social media, mass hysteria is being fuelled. Between the uncertainty and the vivid news coverage, the fear of losing a loved one or facing death has become very prevalent and alive.

Furthermore, the anticipatory anxiety over newer disruptions, changing syllabus, schools re-opening and changing personal academic expectations is resulting in students being stressed and anxious fervently during the lockdown.

Demotivation and procrastination. Educational institutions with their structured routines, time-tables, inter-house activities, rigorous curriculums and timely evaluations promote uniformity, structure and a sense of control among students. The morning assemblies, mentor sessions and healthy competitions help provide a positive direction to the youthful angst by boosting their morale. However, in the face of the pandemic, it is extremely difficult and challenging to re-create the enthusiasm and kinship of a classroom from behind a virtual screen.

With spending the majority of their time at home, students are now struggling to cope with the unexpected disruption in their routines, thus lacking motivation and are procrastinating way more than ever before. In normal circumstances, most students would promptly complete their assignment the night before submission as the fear of physically facing the teacher would act as a driving force to complete the task, even if they are not enthusiastic about the given assignment. With online classes, that motivation is lacking. Furthermore, students sit through one online class after another, too tired to learn but alert enough to attend to roll calls.

While the studies may continue as usual, the educational upbringing has come to a halt, leaving students vulnerable to their own potentials. These factors have reduced motivation that in turn is leading to lapses in academic performance of students during Covid-19. 

Isolation. Human beings are social animals. The sense of confinement that has come from the quarantine phase is counterproductive to mental health and well-being. Social distancing is like a double-edged sword. Although it is the strongest defence against this pandemic, it is also plainly destructive to the quality of life. Physical interaction (be it a handshake, a smile or a hug) and ceremonies (be it weddings, graduations or even funerals) assure the warmth of human company, thereby adding meaning to life. However, the mandates to maintain physical distancing and social  restrictions during the pandemic has made it challenging to keep loneliness at bay.

Educational institutions act as catalysts in forming friendships and building connections. Physical interactions among like-minded individuals inspire growth, create memories and serve as a foundation for life time alliances, but above all make learning recreational. However, attending online classes has deprived students of all these opportunities and resulted in them feeling isolated due to lack of face-to-face interactions.

The fear of contracting the virus is also steadily distancing students away from family, friends and neighbours, embedding in them a foreboding sense of loneliness. The solitude created by the pandemic gently tightens around their necks like a necklace gone wrong and these moments of distress make students more vulnerable to psychological ailments.

Coronavirus has changed the world into a reality that has threatened the normalcy that students have been used to. It is perilously close to destroying the progress made over the years, both socially as well as psychologically. While everyone suffers at the hands of this pandemic, students are the most susceptible to its manipulations. Therefore, it is essential for the government and other concerned educational authorities to make provisions of peer support networks and online psychological support across the country to help students cope with the current situatio n efficiently and to keep their morale lifted.

“Tough times never last, but tough people do” – Robert H. Schuller

Image credit: Freepik


Vaani Barmola, a student of B.Sc. Clinical Psychology

Nanaki J. Chadha, Chartered Sport & Performance under the British Psychological Society (BPS). Alongside, a researcher and doctoral student at Staffordshire University, U.K.