Local experts, students shed light on pandemic’s effects on mental health

For more than an hour, four Thomas Jefferson Middle School students, slightly tired from an early wakeup call and recent standardized testing, said they felt fine after everything they experienced over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They were looking forward to the end of the school year, they liked being back in school with friends, and while they may have been a little stressed with distance learning, they said they hadn’t experienced depression or anxiety during the last two years.

Then, they were asked if they had experienced any loss over the last two years. Each of them had or nearly had: An uncle who died from COVID-19 in Mexico. Another late uncle who loved the Raiders. A grandmother figure who died a month ago. A grandmother who fell gravely ill from COVID-19 and recovered. Another grandmother who is battling cancer. 

Finally, their emotions poured out. Tears were shed. 

Eighth grader D’Artagnan Leon-Montano found out he lost his uncle in the middle of the night when he heard sobs around the house. “I never heard my mom crying, and that night I heard her cry.” To honor his uncle, he never takes off his Raiders hat.