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The COVID-19 pandemic has a serious impact on young people’s mental health. Even though in the start the move to online learning seemed harmless, yet the long period with lack of socializing is taking its toll. Two and half months since the start of the school year with physical attendance, Meta.mk spoke with school psychologists in North Macedonia about this problem. They say that the return to schools has contributed to the appearance of two extremes – some students like it, while others are under continuous stress.

“The first group has a need to compensate for the pas lack of socializing, they are motivated, they initialize up school activities, they come up with different initiatives, they are proactive. But, there are children who have felt safe when they attended online classes, so the physical attendance creates stress and shock. These are children that find it difficult to adapt, so they have fears, headaches, problems with concentration, eating or sleeping or are vomiting. They have long been in their comfort zone and now the test of attending school is like one of the worst things that have happened to them.
Their social anxiety has increased,” said Ana Poprizova, a psychologist at the Orce Nikolov High School in the capital Skopje.

She stressed that the load of her work has increased twofold, with students that have problems such as these.

“I’m working with students that are facing with fears, great expectations, and many have reported issues with concentration, lack of motivation and apathy. We are working with these students on how to face their fears, how to come up with a study plan. Both the parents and the professors are included in the process. We are urging the professors to have understanding, to give the students a chance to improve their grades,” Poprizova said.

Niki I.Kotevska, who is teaching psychology in both Georgi Dimitrov and Nikola Karev high schools, says that according to the analyses by medical experts, the COVID-19 complications among children and young people are negligent (although there are exceptions), but unfortunately, the price students pay when it comes to mental health is far higher and as a consequence what they get is an extreme increase of mental abnormalities.

She says that unlike before, there are different psychological problems among the students. Since the start of this school year, during the initial period when they were adapting again to being in classrooms, the symptoms of social anxiety were noticed and they were accompanied by psychosomatic symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches.

“In the beginning, it looked like the distance learning offers greater comfort for the students (fact is that we saw students logging in their classroom from their bed, pub or from a fitness center) still their isolation, fear for their health, fear of death and losing someone dear, the abandoning of their everyday routines. such as going to school or regularly fulfilling their obligations, has led to complete change of their lifestyle. This resulted in the derailing of their psychological health,” Poprizova said.

Kotevska thinks the situation is serious and that the teachers, parents and school psychologists should talk with the students.

“This is the period when the accent should be put on the feelings of our children and only by having a good relationship full of understanding between allh of us who are part of the educational process, we could really work on overcoming of this new abnormal psychological crisis,” Kotevska said.