Local Student Perspective / Schools and mental health: Students thrive when their well-being is valued – Duluth News Tribune
Mental health issues are at an all-time high, especially among teenagers. A study by the American College Health Association found that 62% of high school students experience “overwhelming anxiety” and nearly one in five high school students suffer from depression.
Schools have a unique opportunity to help reduce the mental health crisis, and action must be taken. Making mental health education a requirement in our school systems would provide more knowledge to all, improve people’s quality of life and lead to a healthier society.
Mental health issues can happen to anyone. Although depression in teens often stems from childhood trauma and stress, the rise in mental illnesses in the country can also be attributed to the rise in social media. Social media has taken over the world and 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 worsened 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 behavior therapy) can be expensive and unrealistic. Alternatives to therapy include self-help remedies such as opposing thought to emotion, deep breathing exercises, and mental reframing. These coping mechanisms include performing an action opposite to your current emotion, relaxing and stabilizing your brain and heart rate, and challenging negative thoughts to be positive. These skills help people minimize stressful situations. While these coping mechanisms are helpful, they don’t necessarily solve the problem.
Without action, mental health numbers will continue to rise. School systems must be part of the solution. With depression and anxiety being prevalent among teens, requiring some form of mental health education should be something schools should seriously consider. Staff and students need to be aware of the signs of mental health and understand that it is okay to ask for help. The more these issues are talked about, the less stigma will be attached to mental health.
Students would also learn healthy coping mechanisms, and everyone would have more knowledge about how to help themselves and others.
In addition to education, schools should also provide on-site social workers, counselors and therapists for students who need more intensive support or therapy. If students know that the school values their well-being, they will feel supported, which will improve their self-esteem, help them feel comfortable getting help, and prepare them better for their future.
Schools can play a major role in helping students cope with mental health. Implementing a mental health program demonstrates compassion and awareness for those struggling. The provision of social workers, counselors and therapists can also help with mental health issues and provide students with the support they need.
The current mental health crisis must be addressed in order to improve people’s quality of life and ultimately lead to a healthier society. Schools have the opportunity to make a difference and help reduce the mental health crisis.
Darian Sams is a senior at Hermantown High School. She originally wrote this for a college level composition course.