Mental health affecting students


The Nim’s Library shelves several helpful books

Mental health and how are students affected by it
By Desiree Fasulo

According to ICON, 1 in 5 children suffer from mental illness, but 80% go undiagnosed and untreated. Research shows that academic stress leads to poor mental health and an increased chance of developing anxiety or depression.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center says mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, making it harder to show a good performance in their work.

I interviewed our school counselor, Mr. Alex Pilger, on what he thought about the mental health of students.Pilger thinks that while there isn’t an exact correlation between courses and mental health, as it’s not the sole cause or reason to worsen mental health, he does say that students can struggle with workload anxiety. He also brings up a good point. He talks about how he noticed that more women come to talk to him about their mental health and their struggles. Pilger says that he sees more females willing to talk to him, than people who identify as male, but it isn’t because they aren’t struggling.

For this reason, he created Men’s Club. Men’s Club is a small group of 8-12 junior and senior boys who meet weekly for lunch to talk about a variety of topics, ranging from relationships to anxiety to the future, and many other things. It’s open to anyone in 11th and 12th grade who is interested and meets during second lunch.

Statistics from Turnbridge state that while school alone doesn’t cause mental illness among children, it is important for parents to recognize and understand that certain school-related factors could trigger the onset of a mental health issue.  For example, academic stress/ workload is a leading cause of mental health struggles in students.

I was able to interview a social studies teacher here, Ms. Erin Bergin, and she has some interesting things to say as well. Bergin is aware that some behaviors of students struggling with mental health issues she’s noticed that academically, depending on the mental health issue, they can become more or less motivated to get their work done. Some physical behaviors she has noticed are students with their heads down, looking exhausted, and having a hard time focusing.

She says that the amount of students she sees struggling with mental health issues is alarmingly high and that at least half if not more of her students are currently struggling. She also talks about what she thinks big factors causing or worsening mental health can be. She said that Social media and technology are very big factors, and the social and academics in school can definitely be big factors as well.

A person who wishes to remain anonymous stated that they believe a big factor in mental health decline is social and parental expectations they feel they need to live up to.

I also decided to interview a few students, and see what their thoughts and feelings are towards school, and how they believe their mental health is being affected by it.

One student stated that they don’t think the school has had the best effect on their mental health. They said that while they don’t exactly dread every day, they don’t want to be at school every day, and it’s definitely not something she looks forward to.

Another student said they feel that being in school affects their mental health in a few different ways. She said that she doesn’t enjoy going and that it caused her social anxiety to worsen. This student stated that every time she thinks of coming into school, or when she is in school, is “I want to go home” or “When am I going to go home”.

I interviewed one last student. I asked “ How does showing up to school every day, and coming to class every day, just being in the school building affect your mental health?” and they responded with “Sometimes it depends. Sometimes I really feel the long blocks drag out and it’s really hard, and a lot of the days my brain goes on autopilot so I don’t have to notice how long the day is. So I don’t really notice how I feel. The only positive I feel during school is when I’m with my friends. The state of my mental health is better when I’m far away from school. On vacation, at my house, etc. Our school days are too repetitive to handle, every day feels the same.” When asked the last question, “How do you feel, and what are your thoughts, just when thinking about school?” they stated “I immediately get stressed. Because I’m in high school now, the pressure is a lot worse on me. I think about the stress of my future, the stress of college, the stress of how good my GPA is, and if what I’ve achieved is enough to have a nice future.”

I think these statistics, and interviews with teachers, counselors, and students speak for themselves. I think that we need to realize, just because mental health is talked about more than it was, doesn’t mean that it’s enough. Some things need to change, and we need to pay more attention to what is happening with not only the people around us but also ourselves.