Tanisha M., class of 2024, spent her quarantine creating a blog about COVID-19 and mental health. A self proclaimed mental health advocate, Tanisha has always focused on finding ways to shine a light on the importance of destigmatizing conversations on this topic. Last year, when we all retreated into quarantine, Tanisha got to work educating herself about how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting her peers' mental health. We had the chance to connect with this amazing student advocate, and ask her some questions about her blog.
How did this project come about?
I've always been really focused on mental health advocacy; but then over the summer of 2020, I was able to participate in a program called Polygence. The program essentially allows students to pursue their passions while completing a concrete research project. I of course decided to focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting children; specifically addressing changes in mental health. I spent a month and a half reading papers and publications, and then decided to take my research to the blog. While mental health has always been important to me, this wouldn't have happened had it not been for the pandemic. I saw a lot of people around me having a hard time; their mental health taking a hit in those early months. The adjustment period for quarantine was definitely a big factor for many of my friends and family.
Why was creating this blog so important to you?
My main message is to convince people that spreading awareness about mental health, caring about mental health, caring about people who have mental health concerns is crucial. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but we are sometimes afraid to stand up for mental health. My hope is that by continuing to educate people, and encouraging them to spread awareness of this topic will help reduce the general stigma. There is no better way to try and reach my peers than to share information by way of a blog.
Did anything surprise you in your research?
In the dozens of studies about COVID and how children's mental health is potentially affected, every single paper found that collectively, mental health had been negatively impacted by the pandemic. When I went into the research, I didn't know what I would find. Even though this was what I suspected, it was still shocking to see how bad things had gotten.
Looking to the future: what is your goal for this blog?
I want to continue this blog for the long term, as COVID is still very present in many of our lives. The blog will continue to evolve as I learn more and more, and make more professional connections. I want to go to Stanford University to study medicine, with my professional goal to become a pediatrician. Mental health advocacy is an important piece of that for me. Right now, I am focusing on interviews. I have been able to connect with even more people by interviewing mental health professionals, and members of our own school community, to learn how our parents, students and teachers have been dealing with the pandemic. I continue to learn as I create blog pieces, and I am able to teach others as well. It's definitely a win win.
What was the hardest part of quarantine for you personally?
Not coming to school! School is so important to me, it is a place where I can get out of the house, socialize, and see my teachers. Online school was isolating; it was harder to learn, stay focused, and enjoy school.
This may be an odd question, but do you think there was there a silver lining of quarantine?
A lot of people got dogs! I was lucky enough to do be able to get one as well, and it was so important for my family. Another thing that is important is that many people got to spend a lot of time with their families; extended family too.
Zac, Tanisha's quarantine pup
We recommend perusing Tanisha's blog here. You will find lots of interesting posts, as well as education and resources. As always, our Bobcats are amazing and we continue to celebrate their efforts as they support their peers.
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