Change needs to start for high school students, as mental illness is increasing, and no, it's not because we are lazy, weak, or babyish. Something needs to change.
High school sucks. I don't think people realize it, especially older generations, but it is actual hell now.
Classes are no longer as easy as they think. Now, instead of taking biology later in high school, by freshman year, it is the first science class, and by senior year, AP Chemistry is offered.
Study hall does not exist. That is not a thing for most schools. And work time in classes that run on a 45-minute schedule versus a 90-minute schedule is a no go, so work is expected to be done from home, without the assistance of a teacher.
And on top of all of this, students are expected to carry good grades, many extracurricular activities, and a normal sleep schedule, along with some form of a social life that involves volunteer hours that are required to graduate.
That's stressful. And so it makes sense as to why the number of mental illnesses in high school is rising so dramatically compared to previous generations.
We are expected to do more, expected to carry the future, expected to progress the world.
That is a lot to think about for an adult, but much less a 14–18 year old student who also has to handle all of the needs stated previously.
High school is no longer about educating a student, but rather educating an entire generation that is under constant stress.
So, what steps can schools take to help students who struggle with mental illness?
Well, from personal experience, nothing is being done. Principals can call up "mental health professionals" and have them read a basic list of symptoms and treatment options in front of an entire high school, which has been done before. Honestly, it does not take a genius to find the exact article that was read, along with thousands of others that tell of the same things. All of these resources are from adults, older generations, not a single person who has had to experience the hell that is a mental illness in high school.
So, I'm here to share my story, and to tell you that changes need to be taken.
I am a senior in high school, and have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder for two years.
From freshman year to senior year, I have only taken one class that actually talks about mental illness as exactly that: an illness.
Our freshman year, there is a required health class. In that class, the focus is mainly on physical and social health. Understandable, but there is one major section of health that is being neglected: emotional health.
The only unit used to focus on emotional health was to do a brief presentation talking about mental illnesses, but instead of calling them illnesses, they were called mental problems. Now, the word problems relates to what they are, but the connotation used is as though it can be solved and forever removed.
That is not possible. Every presentation given told about how a complete recovery is possible, but that is not true.
For my presentation, I talked about depression and told every person in my class that a complete recovery from any form of mental illness is not possible, but management is. A person who has depression will always have depression, but it can lessen, never go completely away, but lessen. That is true for every mental illness: a complete cleanse of the disease is not possible, but management of the symptoms is.
That was freshman year, and the next two years, the topic of mental health was completely ignored. Students were expected to solve their own problems, and our school guidance counselor, who is viewed by all students as a person there to help with such problems, simply says that we should try to relax and focus on other things.
My junior year, a class opened up: Psychology-Sociology. Excited, I signed up for the class right away, expecting other students to have a similar interest in the class, as it offers a little something for everyone. To my surprise, only ten students were in the class. Ten students.
Confused, I looked at the school handbook to see what summary was put in about the class that made it so unappealing. The entire summary focused on the history of psychology and sociology, and spoke nothing about mental illnesses.
The education system is intentionally putting mental illness on the back-burner, and that needs to stop.
A friend of mine, who has had issues with anger before, was finally diagnosed with anxiety. After years of living thinking they had an anger management problem, they finally found the cause of the problem. That friend is much better now that proper treatment is offered.
However, for many people like my friend, issues are simply seen as behavioral problems that can be changed. I guess it never dawned on me that it is not that teachers don't understand mental illness and ways to detect it, but rather that they just don't know what to do, so they say the students has behavioral problems instead of focusing on the actual problem.
School administration does not help either.
Anymore, public schools have started focusing too much on making the world seem happy and bright rather than focusing on reality and being aware of problems within their students. My class helped me to realize that more resources need to be provided to students as a way to keep them safe.
Administration needs to provide students with a more useful resource than a school guidance counselor to help students with their mental health issues. Our school has a psychologist, but no one has ever known because she has a back office that is in a back hallway of the school. The staff never even talks about her.
In conclusion, high school needs to give out more resources for all students, as mental illness and high school separately are torturous, but together, it can lead to all out hell.