Mental health toll of COVID-19 pandemic lingers in Arizona kids

Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, high school student Gema Sanchez Gamez was always on the move. She was often up at 5:30 am to catch a ride to school, had a full schedule of classes during the day, and then after school would help her Spanish-speaking parents with paperwork or translating emails. Underneath it all, she was struggling with her recovery from an eating disorder.

Then everything came to a standstill.

“I had no freedom, I had no stability, so I felt motivation slowly fading away,” she said.

Her days began to blend together. Classes were attended in bed, while the clubs that used to structure their days were gone. With those changes came uncertainty, loneliness and fear. That summer, her grandmother died of COVID-19.

Two years on, the difficulty of that period feels strong. But she also sees the past two years as a chance to slow down, breathe and assess how to live in the world.

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