The past year has been hard for everyone dealing with the pandemic, and such a serious thing happening in people’s lives can make a drastic change in anyone’s mental health. I wanted to take a deeper look into a group of people who have had a unique experience this past year, being a student and working during the pandemic. I wanted to take a look at how this has affected their mental health, as someone who has also had to work and do classes during the pandemic.

Recently the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of teens and young adults in the U.S., conducted an online survey with nearly 200 college and graduate students from across the country about their emotional readiness for the fall 2020 semester, given the uncertainties accompanied by COVID-19. One of the most concerning things they found from the survey was that a combined 63% of students say that their emotional health is worse than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 56% of students are significantly concerned with their ability to care for their mental health.

I decided the best person to interview about this topic is someone who fits all the criteria, so I interviewed my friend Payton. Payton is 20 years old and has been going to college at ASU in Tempe, and has been working different jobs the entire time as well, including working this past year during the pandemic. I asked him some questions about it and his responses seem to fit in with the data that I’ve found.

How many hours do you work a week?
17 hours, but one job is technically 5 mandatory reported hours, so the workload is somewhat lighter.

How much time do you spend doing classwork a week?
I try to spend at least 20 hours a week outside of class working on stuff for class, but it’s been somewhat harder to focus on doing this during the pandemic. So probably more around 15.

What’s more important to you, how you’re doing in school or how you’re doing at work?
Definitely how I’m doing in school.

Have your grades been affected by your work/the pandemic?
Technically, my grades have been good, but in reality, I’ve had a much harder time retaining information and learning.

Have you noticed a change in your mental health due to the pandemic?
I think it’s gotten worse.

What’s the best thing that has happened to you in the past year?
I don’t know. I don’t mean to be vague, but nothing too significant has happened and I feel like I haven’t gotten much closer to my goal. There’s been good things that have happened, like my GPA went up and I really enjoyed classes and entering club leadership, but nothing like…extreme.

Do you consider school to be a necessity, or an opportunity?
I consider school both. There are classes that I’m obligated to take, but there are many classes that I genuinely enjoy. There’s a lot of opportunities to learn even in those required classes. So I guess overall, it’s an opportunity, but thinking economically, yes it’s a necessity.

Through this interview, and through just knowing him as a person, I can see the struggles he’s had the past year, that I can also relate to in some ways because of my own self being a student and a worker. Unfortunately a lot of students can relate to this struggle, and is something that I think we as a society need to be aware of.

To read more about the research found from the Jed Foundation, look here at www.jedfoundation.org/survey-of-college-student-mental-health-in-2020/