Polygence blog / Student Spotlights

High School Research Student Tanisha Writes Blog on the Mental Consequences of Covid

13 minute read

Tanisha is a sophomore from San Jose, who studied the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on child mental health. Having conducted numerous interviews and gathered information from piles of research papers, Tanisha was able to translate all of her findings into a fantastic blog! In it, she not only addresses the emotional and mental impacts Covid has had on children and adolescents, but also what can be done to help. She plans to continue advocating for mental health with her blog for years to come. You can read more about Tanisha’s Polygence experience in the interview below.

What attracted you to Polygence’s research program?

I knew I wanted to do a project related to mental health, so I was looking for a program where I would get a mentor to help me jumpstart my research. I thought Polygence was really great because we got the liberty to pursue our own projects. There were no restrictions in that way. That's probably what drew me to this program the most.

Why did you decide to pursue mental health?

Honestly, I think that I've always been passionate about mental health, but I don’t believe I would’ve done this project if it weren't for the pandemic. I think that the pandemic heavily changed my perspective. Before, I mostly thought about physical health, but Covid really changed that. During the past year and a half, I realized that mental health might be even more important since struggling with it can have an adverse impact on your body as well. Plus, I had a lot of personal experiences with mental illness, as did a lot of my family and friends. That's what got me thinking about what I could do to help the community during this time.

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The power of the mind is absolutely wild. Can you tell us more about your specific research project and why you chose it?

My research project is a blog exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of children. The reason I decided to center around children is because I think that their mental health is something that's not talked about as much and not given as much attention. And of course there's the added component that I would have better understanding with that area given that I’m a teen myself.

As for choosing what my project would be, I considered a research paper, but felt it wouldn't have as much outreach as a blog. A research paper just wouldn't be helping the community in the way I’d want since I wanted to make something that was easily accessible and understandable. For many people, It's very hard to truly understand and get invested in something like a research paper.

Why did you decide to also do interviews?

I was looking through my blog and I was thinking about my next piece, specifically what I could do to add more credibility to the blog and make it so that people aren’t just relying on my research and opinion. That's why I decided to interview people. I wanted to get a primary source that would lend my work more credibility. I also thought that me talking to people and hearing their experiences, not just mine, would be really helpful to viewers as they could get multiple perspectives before forming their own.

Is there an interview you did that you found the most interesting, in terms of new insights or things that you learned?

There is one interview that’s actually not up yet, but I recently interviewed a childcare psychiatrist currently working at a Stanford Clinic. He's also in partnership with Allcove, an organization that promotes mental health for youth. So, I think that was probably the most interesting interview I've had so far because I really got first hand knowledge from someone who knows the science behind everything and has dealt with a lot of these issues in children, especially throughout the pandemic.

That must’ve been really cool! Do you have a favorite interview in general?

I really like the interview I conducted with a fellow student because I was able to talk to another teen and understand their experience and perspective on mental health. In the interview, she affirmed that her mental health did take a hit in the pandemic and that things like school closures and isolation were hard. Given my personal experiences and those of the children and teens around me, her answer wasn’t quite surprising. Yet, what I really loved about this interview was how she saw the pandemic almost as a positive thing because it let her to grow as a person and improve herself. I think that was great because it demonstrated how some people can take something really negative and turn it into something beautiful.

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Can you walk me through the process of completing your project?

First, my mentor and I set a timeline of what we needed to do. Once we did that, we started brainstorming exactly what we wanted the blog to be about. She taught me how to cite sources correctly, locate and read research papers, and perhaps most importantly, how to extract meaningful information from them. After all of that, we finally started the research process. I would gather a bunch of research papers, write notes, and then we would discuss it all. If a paper fit our goal, we would draft a rough outline of it. Then, once we had an outline of all the papers and knew how sections would be divided, I started writing and incorporating them into the blog. My goal was to try to complete one section of my blog each week.

How would you say Polygence is different from a typical class or tutoring?

The one thing that I really love about Polygence is that we get a lot of independence about what we want to do. There are no restrictions or limitations on what we can do. Nobody's telling us that you have to write a research paper or you have to do an experiment or anything like that. It's more about what your vision is and how the program and your mentor are going to help you carry that out. I think that's what made this experience truly great for me.

I’m so happy to hear that! Was there anything you learned during this project that you don't think you could have learned in school?

I learned how to conduct research and my writing skills definitely improved. I didn't have that much experience writing beforehand—mostly just essays—but this program really taught me how to write more casual pieces and I think that this skill will be useful to me in the future. I’m honestly just happy that I could learn how to understand research papers in general, because they can be very difficult to understand at times! So, I think I definitely learned some really amazing skills for getting down to the essence of a paper.

What was the most challenging part of the project and how did you overcome it?

It was mainly getting into the writer's mindset because though the writing was my favorite part, I can get writer's block pretty easily. Getting into a mode where I can just keep writing continuously can be a little tough for me. Yet, I think once I knew exactly what I wanted to write about and what I wanted to do, I didn’t stop to think and was able to just write. I think I could overcome writer's block when I stopped overthinking and realized the answer was right in front of me. Just jotting down any ideas that came to mind, even if it didn’t make sense at the time, worked best for me. By doing that, I’d get that one idea that’d jump start something else and lead to a snowball effect. Things just started coming one after the other.

How has the reception of your blog been?

I’ve shared it with people of all ages: kids, younger kids, adults, seniors, etc. and it's been really great. It was really exciting to see that people were actually super interested in my blog and how much people cared to read it, especially because there’s so much stigma associated with discussing mental health. I think that everyone so far has just really loved its message and accessibility. It's very easy for them to understand what I'm trying to say, which is what I really wanted to do in the first place. So, seeing its reception and being able to spread awareness and educate people about mental health has been a really amazing experience.

That’s amazing! What would you say is the most interesting thing you've learned about Covid or mental health during this project?

I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned is definitely just how much Covid impacted our mental health. What is scary to us are the physical consequences of Covid and all the unknowns surrounding the ways that it affects our physical bodies. But what we overlook is the tremendous impact it has on our mental health. While all the papers I read addressed this briefly, I was surprised that very few engaged with this topic in a sustained way. I think a lot of us haven’t been able to grasp just how much the virus has truly impacted us.

That’s a really good point. For students who want to learn more about mental health, what would you recommend they do, read, or watch right now?

I think research papers can be a really great way to understand mental health, especially if you're the kind of person who likes to learn about the science behind it. Yet, if you're the kind of person who’s more straightforward and just wants the crux of the paper, I would really suggest going onto websites that advocate for mental health awareness, talking to mental health organizations, checking out blogs like mine, and watching videos about the subject. One website and organization that’s really good is definitely Allcove. It provides a lot of really great information about mental health for youth. Another good website is Bring Change to Mind, which has a blog that incorporates firsthand stories written mainly by students just like myself.

Thank you for sharing those sites. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a blog?

For me, my style is very casual. I like to tell a story when I'm writing and to really engage my audience by joking around with them. So, I think when writing a blog, you should think about what suits you best when it comes to your writing style. It’s also important to keep in mind what you want your readers to feel, what you're trying to convey to them, and what you want them to come away with. You should have a clear cut picture of what you want your blog to become before you start writing.

That's some really good advice. What advice would you offer someone if they want to conduct interviews?

Again, it depends on what kind of interview you want to do, whether you want it to be very formal or to be more casual. It really just depends on your own style. I think the biggest thing is to make sure the person you’re interviewing is always comfortable, keep them engaged, and also try to keep the people who are going to be viewing or listening to that interview engaged too. I’d also recommend making sure you always get to the point and stick to what the purpose of the interview is.

Do you think you'll continue your blog into the future as well?

Definitely. I think that Covid-19 is still very present in our lives and even when the pandemic ends, there are so many other things that you can write about. There are so many issues that need to be brought to people's attention. So, I think that I can keep talking about a lot of things and would absolutely love to continue.

What advice do you have for other high schoolers thinking about doing a research project with Polygence?

It’s great if you can come to Polygence with a passion because this is a great way for you to express that. But even if you’re not sure what your passion is, that's also great because you can figure it out. I think you should really just keep an open mind about things when coming to Polygence, instead of strictly sticking to plans and ideas with an iron fist. For example, I wanted to initially do a project more related to medicine, but I ended up transitioning to mental health, and tailored it even more to what we're all going through right now by adding the Covid perspective. Doing that, I changed the whole perspective of my project, which required me to have an open mind in the first place. So I think having a passion could be good, but it’s okay to just have an idea of what you want to do. And if you can’t figure out what you want to do for yourself, think of what might help your friends, family, or even your community.

You can visit Tanisha’s blog here.

Tanisha would truly like to thank her Polygence mentor for all her support, guidance, and encouragement throughout her project. Without her mentor's help, Tanisha says she would not have been able to turn her vision into a reality.

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