Mental health in our schools


The Mirror reporter

For many students, mental illness is a real issue. It affects their ability to perform both academically and socially, putting them at a tough spot in high-school. Between work, tests, changing hormones, and issues affecting one’s mental health, high school can easily be a time of stress and hardships, with these struggles being even greater for LGBTQ youth (who are more likely than their peers to suffer from mental health issues.)

The concoction of struggles in both academic and social spheres can be a dangerous combination for youth who are expected to exceed at one or both. As reported by the CDC, teen suicide rates are on the rise, and so is teen depression, and the causes can be traced back to the struggles these students face in the high school atmosphere.

When we look at high school cases of mental health we have to understand the complexity and effect of these illnesses on the afflicted student and how the struggles are more than just what we see.

To a faculty member or fellow student, the student who doesn’t turn in their homework and doesn’t focus in class may just seem lazy and unattentive, but a lot lies underneath.  Several mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and several more can have an adverse effect on the ability of a student to concentrate, and several other illnesses make it hard to even CARE about the work that they have.

The problem extends far past just doing school work though. Irritability, pessimism, loss of interest, and other antisocial behaviors are very present in several disorders and can make it difficult for a student suffering from them to operate in a social atmosphere, and it can have a toxic effect on teens who are afflicted. Social isolation, bullying, feelings of loneliness can drive people to misery.

In our schools, there’s not a lot of leeway for people struggling with mental health issues. Often times both teachers and other staff members aren’t quite inclusive or understanding of issues. Policies such as no late homework or punishment for missing school may seem fair for those who can keep up, but for someone suffering from illness, it’s difficult for them to peel themselves out of bed or to force themselves to do homework. A depressive episode can turn into a major problem once they’ve gotten out of their funk.

What can we do about the struggle of mentally ill students in our schools? Well, the first step is to be aware. The kid who sits next to you may seem just crabby, but she may be struggling with a lot more under the surface. The second step is to be courteous. If someone has a learning disorder, don’t rush them along. If you’re close to someone with mental health issues, try to be supportive of them and their struggles.

We can also help at higher levels by getting our schools and teachers to be more inclusive of mentally ill students. When we create an atmosphere for our mentally ill students and friends to be able to succeed, we can cut down on the amount of misery and the mounting suicide rate while creating a less stressful, more successful atmosphere for us all.