“Living Golden Rule helps teens through isolation of pandemic”

“Living Golden Rule helps teens through isolation of pandemic” by Anusha for The Arizona Republic

It’s noon.

After a lengthy night of binge-watching Netflix and mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, I finally trudge out of bed and fight every fiber of my being to plod my way into the bathroom. My phone softly buzzes on the sink countertop from the incoming assignments from Google Classroom, serving as a stark reminder of the outside responsibilities that lurk behind me. There was more than enough time in the world, yet so little energy to finish the tasks at hand. My life had turned into an endless cycle of monotony that consisted of prolonged naps, half-finished meals and an unhealthy amount of screentime.

This depressing reality mirrors the lifestyles of millions across the nation during quarantine, as isolation and remote learning have crumbled the foundation for stable mental health. A sharp incline in the prevalence of mental illness within adolescents has become the primary narrative for the harsh actualities of the global pandemic. According to a study held by the non-profit organization America’s Promise Alliance in June 2020, nearly one-third of surveyed high school students reported feeling unhappy or depressed. Additionally, Ann Murphy, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Rutgers, stated, “Social isolation and loneliness is linked with poorer mental health and higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

However, despite the constant battle between seclusion and satisfaction, a light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. Even with the seemingly neverending repetition of the same schedule and lack of social interaction, a nationwide survey held by the Institute for Family Studies at the Wheaton Institution in October of the same year revealed that the percentage of teens who were depressed or lonely was actually lower in 2020 than in 2018. The survey findings further declared that “teens’ technology use did not appear to increase dramatically during the pandemic when compared with 2018.”

The results have demonstrated a ray of hope within the inevitable fate of extended solitude and can even be seen in the lives of those around us. When interviewing Arizona teens for the Live-Golden Segment, many expressed an improvement in their well-being regardless of their circumstances. Diya, a junior at Hamilton High School, affirmed, “People around me were going through the exact same thing, and we were able to share our thoughts together.” James, a senior at Perry High School, added, “People are much more open to mental health than ever before.”

These teens reflect an important aspect of the Golden Rule that has helped their journey on this rocky path. By utilizing empathy and respect, they are transparent about their emotional situations and share their experiences to have open conversations about mental health. They understand the hardships that their peers are going through.

And you can too. Through the Golden Rule, you can leverage your empathy and respect to be the best support system for both you and those around you. In difficult times such as now, people of different backgrounds and religions can unite and become the driving force for change. Whether it be through simply checking in with a friend through text or volunteering for a local community food drive, every action counts. Your struggles matter and your community is here for you.

Tune into our segment about mental health during quarantine on Feb. 23 on AZTV Channel 7 at 8 a.m. or watch it on the AGREE Golden Rule website (az-GoldenRule.org) under LiveGolden.

Anusha Rahman is the publicist for LiveGoldenAZ! She is currently a junior at Hamilton High School.

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