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  4. The Impact of the Pandemic on the Mental Health of Adolescents

Adolescence is a period during which one is trying to figure oneself out and find a collocation for oneself in the world. This is often achieved through some level of exploration, experimentation, and sometimes transgression and risk-taking. Adolescents start to assess aspects they wish to incorporate into their identity and aspects they prefer to leave out. This developmental stage is also characterized by a sharper separation from parents, caregivers, and family; the peer group becomes the main point of reference. At the end of high school, many adolescents leave the family “nest” to continue this journey of self-discovery. Perhaps, they can define themselves for the first time less against the expectations or in comparison with their parents, siblings, and other family members.

Adolescents require their peers to accomplish their separation-individuation task. The pandemic and its consequences – lockdowns, closures, social distancing, isolations - forced adolescents back into the “nest” and severely limited their contact and socialization with peers. Adolescents had to devise creative ways of being together while being apart, transform “social distancing” into a physical but not social distance, and maintain a sense of community while apart. If we think of the human body as a canvas upon which many of the explorations, discoveries, and conflicts of adolescence play out, adolescents had to find other spaces and avenues on or through which to leave their mark and express themselves, sometimes leading to an overuse of social media, smartphones and the internet.


The pandemic uncovered the fragility and vulnerability that mark this stage of psychosocial development, including the fact that adolescents are still developing positive coping skills and the ability to process difficult circumstances. It also exposed the infinite resilience that youth across the world possess and the ability all human beings have of reinventing themselves and adapting. For some adolescents, this time at home, away from peers and school, was a welcome respite from the gaze of their peers, the effort, awkwardness, and social anxiety that permeates their face-to-face interactions. Their computer screens provided an extra layer of protection, a comfortable shield or filter, which afforded them the freedom to finally interact with others in a more uninhibited, casual, and relaxed way. For others, school may represent a sort of refuge, and not having the physical, tangible, concrete in-person contact with peers, teachers, and the school building caused them to feel lost and disoriented. Some adolescents may have struggled more than others with the lack of routine and structure. Not being able to participate in public life and engage in activities outside of their homes caused many feelings of fear, frustration, sadness, anxiety, anger, and loneliness.

Studies have shown that social connectedness, i.e., meaningful social interactions and supportive close relationships with family and peers based on trust and communication, engaging in positive and healthy behaviors like physical activity and healthy sleep may have functioned as protective factors for adolescents during the pandemic; while coping strategies such as video games may have served as a risk factor for negative mental health outcomes” (Cohen et al., 2021).

For parents whose jobs involve frequent traveling or long hours away from home, the pandemic may have provided an opportunity to strengthen their bond with their adolescent children but also gave more room for tension, conflict, and friction. In many cases, the mental health of adolescents was impacted by an increase in family and parental stress, with caregivers juggling working from home and homeschooling, facing job and financial insecurity, and other stressors brought about by the pandemic.

Youth and adults alike had to contend with individual and collective grief and loss (and in some cases, trauma), brought about by illness and death and the loss of a world as we knew it pre-COVID. Our assumptions, illusions, structures, routines, and habits were all being tested, and first and foremost, the illusions of safety, control, and certainty that allow us to navigate, somewhat seamlessly, a messy, chaotic world. As Andrea Hussong, professor and associate director of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reminds us, the pandemic reshaped development: “The COVID-19 pandemic is both a shared and a personal experience. Development is not so much delayed by the pandemic but reshaped by it. Rather than asking high school seniors to “go back to normal” — which returns them to their sophomore years — we need to ask them and the systems that serve them to recognize their new developmental path. Our work, in many ways, is charting that new developmental path, the risks and benefits that may come with that path, and the ways to support youth resilience and thriving as they travel that path” (Hussong, 2021).

For many, the pandemic provided a harsh reminder that we are owed and guaranteed nothing. This reminder has perhaps made it even scarier than it already is for many teens to venture out into the world and envision their future. “Concerns over the future, social isolation, a sense of limbo, and lack of control all contribute to what one London-based psychotherapist coined a mental health pandemic” (Kwai & Peltier, 2021, as cited in Beal, 2021, p.237). The pandemic lay bare deep political, social, economic, and racial inequalities. For some, however, it has also provided the time and space to assess or reassess what is really important to them, the values they would like to be guided by, and what can be done away with. Perhaps, for some adolescents, it has been an opportunity to find more balance in their life, slow down, engage in hobbies, have some of the educational pressures removed, relax and get some much-needed rest. I am hopeful that it has allowed adolescents and their families to “declutter” and “recalibrate” their lives and make space for what really matters to them. In this way, the pandemic may have actually been of service to the natural, universal, and essential developmental task of building a sense of self–a task whose beauty lies in its imperfectness and the fact that it can never be completed.



Beal J.A. (2021). Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health of Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing 46(4), 237. Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health of Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults

Cohen Z.P., Cosgrove K.T., DeVille D.C., Akeman E., Sigh M.K., White E., Stewart J.L., Aupperle R.L., Paulus M.P., & Kirlic N. (2021). The Impact of COVID-19 on Adolescent Mental Health: Preliminary Findings From a Longitudinal Sample of Healthy and At-Risk Adolescents. BRIEF RESEARCH REPORT article Frontiers in Pediatrics, 08 June 2021. The Impact of COVID-19 on Adolescent Mental Health: Preliminary Findings From a Longitudinal Sample of Healthy and At-Risk Adolescents

Hussong A. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on adolescents’ mental health (Article). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, College of Arts and Sciences. The impact of COVID-19 on adolescents’ mental health


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Chapter 01: News from the Board of Trustees | Welcome to St. Stephen's

Welcome Head of School-Elect Jill Muti

The St. Stephen’s community looks forward to welcoming Head-Elect Jill Muti when she arrives in Rome later this summer.

For the last eighteen years, Ms. Muti has been the Head of Ashley Hall, a Pre-K-12th-grade independent school for girls serving 685 students. In this capacity, she has managed the budget, staffing, and all aspects of student life and has had hands-on leadership in virtually every dimension of the School's program, including strategic planning and development. 

Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2022 Highlights

The Fight for Ukraine: A Journey to the End of the Night

It was a day after Russia invaded when Alex texted.

Now a successful attorney, my good friend is Ukrainian. In childhood, he was a refugee, encamped in Italy before being relocated to Texas. “Remember that thing you wrote about whether individuals shape history?” he asked. I had to admit that I did not. “I do,” he said.

By Jen Hollis - Teacher of IB History
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Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times

Ukraine Facts at a Glance



In March of 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed a region of Ukraine called Crimea, which Russia believed belonged to them. It was annexed through a Crimean parliament vote, followed by a 97% win referendum. The annexation, however, is still widely disputed by Ukraine and the International Community. (NPR)  It remains the only time a European nation has used military force to seize territory since World War II.

By Aslan Stephenson ‘25
Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | Putin's Mind, A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2022 Highlights

Opinion - Putin’s Mind: A Psychological Assessment

With Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine,

Russia's rise towards autocracy hit a new high. Putin has threatened any country attempting to intervene with dire consequences, which some fear may include the use of nuclear weapons, during this full-scale military invasion.

By Emma C. Jansen ‘24
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Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times

When Will It End?

A chill ran down my spine on February 24th as I watched the invasion of my home country in absolute horror.

Many said it wouldn’t happen. It did. Our president, Volodymyr Zelensky, appealed to the Russian people in a last-ditch effort to stave off the inevitable in those early morning hours in late February.

By Unnamed SSS Student
Chapter 03: Around School | Boarding Activities

Boarding: Holiday dinner & weekend activities

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Lago Albona bording2
Chapter 03: Around School | Fall Trips, Boarding Activities

Boarding: Lago Albano & Fall trips

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Chapter 03: Around School | Service, Field Trips

Field Trips & CAS

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Chapter 04: Technology Today | Blockchain, Technology

The Blockchain

Generation Z is growing up in a technologically advanced world.

Even though we are supposed to know the latest technology and advancements, many things you read about are still unclear and confusing.

By Emma C. Jansen ‘24
love of bitcoin
Chapter 04: Technology Today | Love of Crypto, Technology

For the Love of Crypto

Cryptocurrency is one of the world’s greatest inventions.

However, there is a lot of false information about it. For many, it remains mysterious and something not well understood. Because of that, many people choose to stay away from it, believing they will lose a lot of money. But is that really the case?

By Matteo Torralba ‘24
Chapter 04: Technology Today | NFT, Technology

I’ll Have an NFT, Please

In the last couple of months, interest in NFTs has skyrocketed.

If you haven’t heard of or know anything about this latest craze, the concept is relatively simple. NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which is essentially a virtual or digital collectible (e.g., art). If you are to buy a particular NFT, that means you are the only certified holder of it. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
Chapter 04: Technology Today | New Technologies

New Technologies on the Horizon

Blockchain technology offers many exciting possibilities in various industries–from finance and law to music and fashion,and we’ve read a few use cases in this chapter. Below, you’ll find a few more technologies that are my top picks I believe we should keep an eye on for the impact each has the potential of having on human welfare.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
Chapter 05: The Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum | The Lyceum, Classics

The Aventinus Minor Project: An Educational and Community Archaeology Project

Learning about human societies - past, present, and future.


By Inge Weustink - Director of the Lyceum, Classics Teacher
Chapter 05: The Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum

Scientific Methods in Archaeology Lessons

During the last week of March, the 9th- and 10th- graders engaged in a presentation followed by an interactive session related to archaeology and the sciences.

By Esme Lundius ‘10 - St. Stephen’s Activities Coordinator, Boarding Department
Chapter 06: Creative Writing | The Arts, Creative Writing

Celebrating the Core Value of Creativity

Creative Writing Teacher Moira Egan is extremely pleased to introduce these pieces by students in the Spring Semester’s Creative Writing Classes.

A wide and wonderful gamut is represented here, including works inspired by works of literature or students’ artwork, the classic yet fun form of ovillejos, and beautiful translations from the Hindi and Chinese.

eric mayer
Chapter 07: Interview with Outgoing Head of School Eric Mayer

Eric Mayer

Outgoing Head of School

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
new technologies
Chapter 08: Our Life Online | Digital St. Stephen's

Technology for Good

In this online event, we discussed and provided insight into how St.Stephen’s alumni benefit from an adaptive aptitude towards building technologies that truly solve problems, beyond the financial gain.

Chapter 08: Our Life Online | Gaming, Technology

The Wonderful World of Gaming

In gaming, there are several social and emotional advantages.

Although online games are a form of entertainment, with the support and guidance of parents, they can help children develop creativity, cultivate relationships with friends, and improve strategic thinking.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
healthy mind
Chapter 09: Sports | Exercise Critical for a Healthy Mind

Why Exercise is Critical for Maintaining a Healthy Mind

Exercise, be it aerobic or anaerobic, is generally perceived as a positive activity to partake in; yet what does the science say when it comes to its effects on mood, mental health, and general well-being?

By Alexander Carbon ‘22
Chapter 09: Sports | Sports Program at School

Sports lens

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ice skating
Chapter 09: Sports | Ice Skating is a Passion

The Fire Inside Me

I frequently question what people are passionate about.

And, I mean like insanely in love and an ardent passion towards a sport, music, subject, person, or anything; a kind of passion that lights a fire inside you.

By Clotilde Citrani ‘23
true to myself
Chapter 10: Mental Health | Surrounded yourself with Healthy People

To Thyself Be True

The importance of surrounding yourself with healthy people is knowing you are fine just by yourself if you don’t find them

By Emma LeGalle ‘23
mental health
Chapter 10: Mental Health | Impact on Mental Health, The Pandemic

The Impact of the Pandemic on the Mental Health of Adolescents

Psychologist Erik Erickson in his theory of psychosocial development, posits that between the ages of approximately 12 and 18, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity and explore their independence.

By Luisa Nannini - LCSW Health and Wellness Counselor
Chapter 11: Service Tributes | In the Spirit of Service

Supporting the Children of Idjwi

“Providing a meal at school is a simple but concrete way to give poor children a chance to learn and thrive.” WFP

By Dr. Helen Pope - Former St. Stephen’s Teacher and Director of the Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum
Chapter 11: Service Tributes | In the Spirit of Service

The House Whose Name is Love

La Casa di Andrea

By Annie Jacquet - Teacher of French and Supervisor of the Reach Out Student Club /Associazione Andrea Tudisco
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Book Corner

The Giver by Lois Lowry

HarperCollins Edition 2014

The novel, The Giver, is a fantasy intended for young audiences. It is an exciting story full of twists and turns. But above all, especially in these times, it pushed me to reflect on the pain brought by war and human brutality.

By Vittoria Giusti ‘22
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Book Corner

The Plague by Albert Camus

My English class has been reading and studying the novel The Plague by Albert Camus.

Throughout the book–centered around disease, sickness, and consequent suffering–we observe the plague's ‘chillingly rapid’ progression throughout the city and its psychological, social, and emotional effects on those living through it.

By Benedetta Bosco ‘22
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Photography, The Arts, Digital St. Stephen's

Liana Miuccio's Photoclasses

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Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | What Students are Watching

Film review: Promising Young Woman (2020)

IMDB Rating: 7.5

‘Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?’