Little did I know that my first day of research would be such an eye opening experience that would teach me such an important life lesson. As I was shadowing and training for my research program called Path2Purpose, I was told that ever since the pandemic, there are higher levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and psychological traumas. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that almost 25.5 percent of young adults from the ages of 18-24 have had suicidal thoughts in the past 30 days. There are many children that are going through hardships due to the pandemic, and we are not able to notice it anymore.
I do not blame others for wanting to go back to their normal life, since I, myself, am guilty of thinking about going on vacations, seeing my friends, and going out. However, in the world we live in, there are children who are abused, deprived of a living, and are not able to see the outside world due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic hit, they had even the slightest hope, whether it was seeing their friends or meeting their teachers. Teachers, especially, were able to notice the children who were being neglected and took the necessary steps to help them; however, now with classes being online, cameras are not always turned on, and teachers do not have an insight as to what these children are facing.
Path2Purpose is a program that helps teens between the ages of 13-18 develop coping mechanisms, build resilience, and learn communication skills. They focus on children who are on the verge of depression and help aid them through the program. I believe that if we did not have programs like Path2Purpose, there would be so many more children who would go unnoticed and would continue to be trapped in their toxic living situations. Hopefully, more programs will be implemented during this tough time striving towards the same mission.
Although I cannot relate to their situations, I tried empathizing with these children by reflecting on my own experience during quarantine. When I was home for only three months after we were sent home from school, I was struggling to find ways to entertain myself and keep myself distracted. I enjoyed the first few months, but after a few weeks, everyday felt like a repeat, and it began to take a toll on me mentally. I started to overthink my future and how I was unable to complete my patient care hours for PA school due to the pandemic. After a while of only seeing my family and rarely leaving my house, I started to feel stuck. However, I realized that I need to make the most of what I can during this tough time and be grateful for an environment that I feel safe in, as that is a privilege.
We look at the coronavirus cases and its curve, but do we take a step back to realize that the mental health curve might be just as bad, if not worse? Due to stigma, mental health is often overlooked and should be focused on more, especially during the pandemic. I began to focus a lot on my mental health recently because I felt like it was up to me to make the most of this situation. I channeled my energy into creating a blog called NaNi Vaato with one of my friends. NaNi Vaato, a phrase that means “small talk” in Gujarati, is a platform we use to normalize the small talk regarding stereotypes, myths, and cherishable aspects of our South Asian culture. Through the blog we are able to spread awareness of our community, and this experience made me happier and taught me to enjoy every aspect of life, no matter how big or small.