THE IMPACT OF
COVID-19 ON THE LIVES
OF YOUNG PEOPLE:
Interview with Natasha Tat
by Lynn Keane.
Natasha Tat is a recent high school graduate from Mississauga,
Ontario. This spring Natasha was awarded the prestigious Founder’s
Academic Merit Scholarship at Guelph-Humber.
Lynn Keane is a speaker, author, former broadcast journalist and
passionate advocate for suicide prevention and mental wellness.
You can read her feature article on Suicide Prevention and COVID-19
LK: Wondering how things are going for you in this time of isolation and distance learning?
These past months in isolation have been a period of adjustment. We have all embarked on the journey of learning how to adapt to the changing circumstances around us. For a few weeks, schools and teachers were trying to get adjusted and so, we were not left with many things to do. But as distance learning became more structured and more information was shared on how we would continue our school year in this manner, we essentially needed to figure out how to learn at home. Without the guidance of our teachers that we were used to when we were physically in school, our peers to rely on when tackling difficult subject matters, and a structured learning environment, distance learning has had its challenges. Distance education is not comparable to traditional schooling and for some, it really is not cohesive with their learning style.
LK: Grade 12 is supposed to be the best year of high school with so much to look forward to. Maybe you can shed some light on the hard parts of this new reality and even some positive things.
Grade 12 has been a true roller coaster this year. With the worries felt by an impending strike just a few months ago, and now a global pandemic, our resilience as students has continuously been tested. One of the hardest parts of this new reality is the fact that we are missing out on a night that we all have been looking forward to for quite a while now, senior prom. I think for a lot of us, that night would have been the last time that we would have the chance to get dressed up, spend some time together, sing, dance, and make meaningful memories before moving on to a new chapter of our lives. But, due to these circumstances, we might not ever get the chance to have that night with each other. In addition to this, our graduation ceremony set for the end of June is being postponed. Alongside these two major events being cancelled or postponed, we are missing out on smaller but equally significant things like our annual Graduation Brunch, year-end celebrations for extra-circulars, and a proper goodbye to our school, teachers, and friends. Even though there are a lot of hard parts right now, there are some positive things that we can look at. For starters, staying at home without much to do leaves more time to bond with family members. Recently, I took an interest in making dishes rooted in my Vietnamese culture and spent a weekend cooking steamed buns, spring rolls, and dumplings with my mom and dad. Although it can be difficult to stay at home all the time, I am truly thankful for this extra time to spend with my family.
LK: Not seeing friends is difficult - how do you connect and or do physical distancing meet up with friends? How are your friends coping through this time?
Even though we were all busy with homework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and athletics, being in school provided my friends and I a place to meet up and connect no matter how busy we got. Now, during quarantine, there is no doubt that the frequency of our communication has decreased. Restricted to FaceTime, texting, and Zoom calls, there has been a challenge to maintain these important connections and bonds with friends. We have met up as a small group once while following physical distancing guidelines and that was the closest that any of us have been to each other in months. However, despite these difficulties, we are all trying our best to maintain communication and to check in on each other’s wellbeing during this time.
LK: Are you seeing an increase in stress and anxiety among your friends?
Among myself and my friends, there has been a visible and dramatic increase in feelings of stress and anxiety during these troubling times. For us as students and teens, we tend to think of the worst-case scenario, leaving us with little hope and a negative mindset. When all of this first began, we did not really understand the severity of the circumstances and expected to be back at school and our regular routines within a few weeks. But as the ‘State of Emergency’ kept getting extended alongside school closures, we lost that important sense hope that kept us motivated and on track. In an already vulnerable position, we were knocked off our feet again when announcements were made about the online teaching platform that would paint the landscape of most post-secondary institutions in the fall. For those of us struggling with distance education currently, the fears of a difficult first semester in post-secondary is quite daunting. Apart from education, there is also a sense of anxiety surrounding seeing our friends again. The fear of putting each other at risk and putting our family and community members at risk is quite powerful. Normally as teenagers we tend to break the rules
and rebel, but faced with circumstances as dire as these, we feel defenceless and fearful.