Mental health seminars in school don’t accurately represent teens’ mental health struggles

Nicole Powichroski

Finding a safe and healthy balance between school, social life, and sleep is one of the biggest struggles students have to deal with. It often feels like students have to sacrifice one of the three in order to succeed in the other two. Not being able to feel like you can succeed in all three can take a big toll on teens’ mental health. Although stress and anxiety for students is commonly related to social media, society also fails to see a correlation between academic competition and validation and mental health problems.

Now, with remote and in-person learning, many students feel burnt out keeping up with hundreds of assignments and everything else they have going on in their life in the midst of a global pandemic. Students are struggling more than ever to find balance in their life. Masks and social distancing can make an active social life difficult to uphold. With a lack of social interaction, lack of social skills and a rise in social anxiety have increased in the past year. To make up for the lack of information learned from the back half of the second semester of 2020 and the fully online portion of fall 2020, many students feel as if there is an increase in the workload. Regardless of whether or not more work is being given, many students find themselves losing sleep not only to finish all their school work but to also fit in a little bit of a social life.

Students and teachers know how unethical the work being turned in by in-person versus online students is. Many students lack motivation to do their work because of how little the school year feels to matter, as well as how easy it is to cheat. The lack of trying and effort increases when students can find an easier way to get work done without learning the material. Not only do students begin to lose motivation in their work, but it can transfer to other parts of their life. Losing the consistency of hard work in one of the most important aspects of life quickly transfers to smaller parts of life like skipping out with friends, no motivation to clean your room, or other everyday activities.

It becomes difficult to find just one reason for the increase in mental illnesses for students. With everything going on in the world, many students find themselves under more stress than ever before, and not only from school. Since school is where students spend a majority of their day, many of them find that it is also where they are the most stressed, with no outlets to relieve that stress. Although at Roswell teachers are required to give emotional learning seminars, much of the information provided gets repetitive and becomes unuseful. These seminars brush the surface of mental health, which goes much deeper. Many people who suffer from mental illnesses are even unaware of the severity they may have because little awareness is brought to them from home or school.

Talaya Thomas,10, was asked about the awareness of mental health in schools and says,“They treat it like it isn’t taking up some people’s entire life and energy. Even some of the teachers advocating for mental health and saying you can talk to them about issues will mention how no matter what’s going on in your life, you have to put all your energy into school. So many students have to put that energy into simply keeping themselves alive everyday, which is exhausting for anyone.”

She was also asked if the school teaches about mental health struggles well. Thompson says that “No, I think they underestimate the severity for some students. For example, it is primarily assumed that self harm is just cutting, when in reality it’s so much deeper than that. It can be over-exercise, filling yourself with harder classes for academic validation, or other things that physically or mentally cause some sort of distraction. They also focus on textbook anxiety and depression. Other very common mental illnesses like BDP, mania, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, etc. are incredibly common and many students feel ashamed of their illnesses because of lack of representation or normality of these health issues….Even student-made videos to bring more representation to other mental health struggles could encourage more students to reach out to parents or teachers.”

Although difficult, getting better begins with students reaching out for help. Reaching out for help means acknowledging a problem and is the first step in bettering yourself. “Teens’ Health” mentions how many teens deal with five obstacles when asking for help: believing that needing help is a sign of weakness, thinking you don’t deserve help or support, not speaking up to ask for help, waiting for someone else to make the first move, and giving up too easily. It is incredibly important for anyone who is struggling to seek the help they deserve and need to better themselves and lives. It can be incredibly terrifying, especially when mental illness stops students from seeking help sooner, but finding enough energy to tell even a friend is enough to begin healing.

Click here for a CBS News take on how covid is affecting mental health of students.