#SenecaTalks: Mental Health During The Covid-19 Pandemic

By: Lorraine Soto & Ashley Mckenzie

Derlea Adigue working on an assignment. // Photo Credit: Lorraine Soto
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School. // Photo Credit: Lorraine Soto

COVID-19 Takes Toll On High School Student

Derlea Adigue, a 12th-grade student at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School, says her mental state has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a student in her final year, Derlea stresses about University applications and maintaining her grade point average. In August 2020, The Toronto Catholic District School Board announced selected schools will be conducting quad-semesters. 

Students from St. Mary are now required to complete two courses within a five-week period as opposed to the standard four months, four-course semester. As a result, Derlea is now required to take compressed curriculums. Nearly double the workload in half the time. 


Gender Gap in Mental Health 

With a third wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, young people fear that the mental health gender gap could widen. According to a study by the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), women were adversely affected in all categories. 24.3% of women have experienced moderate to severe anxiety, almost 50% more than the men surveyed (17.9%).

The gender gap became more evident in loneliness and depression. With online classes being the new norm, many students struggle to complete their studies while mitigating their declining mental health.

High School Stress

While Derlea worries about her pending University applications and final grades, the new norm of online learning has affected her studies drastically. In a recent interview with S@Y News, Derlea says, “I was so excited and mentally prepared to do my best for my final year, but because we have to learn online, it stops me from exceeding the way I want”. 

She attended her first day of classes in September 2020, when things were quite normal. Students at St. Mary C.S.S. were subjected to hybrid learning, with half of their classes in-person and online. 

Post-Secondary Ventures

Derlea has always planned on attending a University in Ontario. However, the academic requirements to enrol in the programs she’s interested in is too much for her to handle. She believes that online learning has negatively impacted her mental health. By being forced to learn remotely, Derlea is now feeling the effects of being isolated. Which, in turn,  has triggered her anxiety.


Panic attacks are more frequent for Derlea. The 12th grader notices she’s suffering more mental breakdowns at a rapid pace. On average, she suffers from these attacks at least three times a week.

As stated by the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), generalized anxiety disorder occurs by factors such as; the stop or increase in socialization, a change of routine, and high-stress environments. Derlea feels the increase in attacks occur because her lifestyle is constantly evolving. 

Impact on Social Life

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Derlea often interacted with her classmates outside of school, spent time with family in closed settings and, travelled internationally. With new regulations embedded in the province of Ontario, she no longer has the chance to physically interact with her friends.

She says learning remotely had made her feel more isolated,  alone and even more distant compared to before the lockdown was set in place. Derlea adds, “I know Covid-19 hit me hard because even before the pandemic, I was never one to socialize often. Now, I can say I want to see my friends and live normally”. 

According to Statistics Canada, youth ages 18-24 feel more distant and alone, in comparison to other demographics. Like many teenagers, Derlea misses social interactions and worries she will not experience prom, a graduation ceremony and, her first steps into a University lecture hall. 


Panic Attacks and Mental Breakdowns (CAMH) 

Each of these anxiety disorders is distinct in some ways, but they all share the same hallmark features:

  • irrational and excessive fear
  • apprehensive and tense feelings
  • difficulty managing daily tasks and/or distress related to these tasks.

Several factors determine whether the anxiety warrants the attention of mental health professionals, including:

  • the degree of distress caused by the anxiety symptoms
  • the extent to which the anxiety symptoms affect the person’s ability to work or study, socialize and manage daily tasks
  • the context in which the anxiety occurs



Lorraine Soto

Reporter, Writer & Editor

Ashley Mckenzie

Radio Host, Researcher & Editor

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