It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

A feature article (Year 10 English Acquisition assignment) for Sekolah Cikal Surabaya Student Council‘s Bilik Ekspresi Program.

It was 11 pm when Sarah, who was already half-asleep, nearly jolted awake due to what she guessed were the 10th intrusive thoughts she had that night. From school-related anxiety to an existential crisis. The number of things her mind can worry about is endless. Yet she doesn’t know how to stop it either. Hence, sleep deprivation has somehow become a habit for her lately.

While others might not experience it as worse, Sarah’s story represents the lives of millions of teenagers during the pandemic. Even though they long to wander and explore the world, for over a year by now, they are confined in their own house with a puzzle that seems unsolvable; their negative thoughts and emotions.

Before the pandemic, most teenagers are used to distracting themselves from facing these thoughts. So when the pandemic hits, they are forced to face all their negative emotions without any preparation beforehand. As a result, the pandemic worsens their conditions further. Lack of peer support, miscommunication in an online school, and other stressful situations have all contributed to the deterioration of teenagers’ mental health.

According to UNICEF, teenagers in half of all households in Indonesia showed signs of difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Behavioral and emotional problems have also gotten more severe as a necessary psychological intervention has not been done.

While recovering from these negative conditions might feel impossible, turns out it is still feasible to do. “Although I’m an extrovert, I have learned that some alone time gives me so much more time to do self-reflection, figure out what is the cause of the problems I’m facing, and then improve my well-being from there,” said Dea, Sarah’s friend, when they discussed mental health.

Teenagers’ coping mechanisms may vary, but the key to all of them is the ability to accept and reflect on each of their conditions. Some might apply it through writing their thoughts, some others through painting or art-related mediums. Whatever it is, validating their thoughts and emotions should be the first step for teenagers to cope and heal through this hard time.

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