Local Student's View / Schools and Mental Health: Students thrive when their well-being is valued
From the column: "Without action, mental health numbers will continue to climb. School systems must become part of the solution. ... The more these issues are talked about, the less mental health will be stigmatized."
Mental health issues are at an all-time high, especially among teens. A study conducted by the American College Health Association found that 62% of high schoolers experience “overwhelming anxiety” and nearly one in every five high schoolers suffers from depression.
Schools have the unique opportunity to help decrease the mental health crisis, and action should be taken. Making mental health education a requirement in our school systems would provide more knowledge for everyone, enhance people’s quality of life, and lead to a healthier society.
Mental health issues can occur in anyone. Although depression in teens often stems from childhood trauma and stress, the nation's rise in mental illness can also be attributed to the increase in social media. Social media has taken over the world and has led to self-isolation, comparison, and low self-esteem. With teenagers scrolling through their phones an average of nine hours a day, social media has consumed lives, impacted young brains, and escalated mental illness.
Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety can be treated. Even though therapy is a recommended treatment plan, psychotherapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) can be expensive and unrealistic. Alternatives to therapy include self-help remedies such as opposite-to-emotion thinking, deep breathing exercises, and mental reframing. These coping mechanisms include completing an action opposite to your current emotion, relaxing and settling your brain and heart rate, and challenging negative thoughts to be positive. These skills help people minimize stressful situations. Although these coping mechanisms are helpful, they don’t necessarily fix the problem.
Without action, mental health numbers will continue to climb. School systems must become part of the solution. With depression and anxiety being predominant in teens, requiring a form of mental health education should be something for schools to strongly consider. Both staff and students should be made aware of the signs of mental health, along with understanding that asking for help is OK. The more these issues are talked about, the less mental health will be stigmatized.
Students would also learn healthy coping mechanisms, and everyone would have more knowledge on how to help themselves and others.
In addition to education, schools should also provide social workers, counselors, and onsite therapists for students who need support or more intensive therapy. If students know the school values their well-being, they will feel supported, which will improve their self-worth, help them feel comfortable getting help, and better set them up for their futures.
Schools can play a major role in helping students deal with mental health. Implementing a mental health curriculum demonstrates compassion and awareness for those struggling. Making social workers, counselors, and therapists available can also help treat mental health disorders and get students the support they need.
The ongoing mental health crisis needs to be addressed in order to enhance people’s quality of life and lead, ultimately, a healthier society. Schools have the opportunity to make a difference and to help decrease the mental health crisis.
Darian Sams is a senior at Hermantown High School. She wrote this originally for a college-level composition class.