Mental Health and High School Students: Hope and Help
By Anonymous Student
Shaking. Crying. Screaming. The student began to sob. He was having a full blown panic attack in the middle of the hallway. People walking by as the student fell to his knees and clutched his head. He began panting short, hurried breaths. A friend walked him to the nurse as he continued producing loud, heartbreaking sobs. He called his parents, and in between the falling tears, requested to go home.
One in five children ages 13-18 have a mental illness. That’s about 43 million students. Seventy-six percent of young people with severe depression do not get properly treated. According to Harvard Health (health.harvard.edu) mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of thinking, relating to others, and day to day functions.
Most people do not know where the proper resources can be found. In fact, I didn’t even know, until I had a short, but informative interview with my guidance counselor. She said that mental health can be a part of who you are and how well you focus. She said that the students who are suffering from mental health may find it difficult to focus on the task at hand. In that simple sentence, she not only told me how mental health affects us, but also key warning signs that someone is suffering. Along with having trouble focusing, some other signs that you or someone you love may be struggling with a mental illness are sleeping all day, staying in rooms with no light, and an unwillingness for group activities.
This affects our entire community. In fact 11% of high school students have an eating disorder (eatingdisorderhope.com). That’s at least 220 students here at White Plains High School. About 30% of teenage girls and 20% of teenage boys have an anxiety disorder (time.com) That’s about 6.3 million teens in the U.S. Only 19% of those teens received the help they needed (newportacademy.com). Mental illnesses may contribute to bullying behavior, and people often neglect to see that bullies may need help.
So what can we do? How are we supposed to help people with a mental illness? The interview with my counselor informed me that the best thing we can do for someone with a mental illness is to tell our guidance counselors. If you open up to your counselor about your own feelings, or your worry for someone else, your guidance counselor may be able to help. Your guidance counselor is a great resource in your school.
The student with the panic attack -- I know him personally. I know he had a lot going on, and he’s feeling a lot better. He’s getting support from his friends and family, and the visits he had with his own guidance counselor. He is generally happier and healthier, and he says, “I just hope the other students with anxiety or any other disorder are braver than I was. I didn’t go to get help when I needed it, and it took having a panic attack to realize I wasn’t ok. It can be tough admitting that you need help, but I hope others have the courage that I didn’t, and tell someone they trust, about what’s happening in their minds.”
I interviewed various students and almost all of them had or knew someone who had a mental illness. When asked what led to their disorder, half of them said home life, and the other half said society. Both were right. When they heard the statistic, most of them were not surprised. Some were saddened but they said that high school is rough. Society is rough. It made sense that this was happening to people. The students told me of their friend who had gotten a disorder from all the stress her parents put on her. They told me of someone who felt he had no control and turned to purging out of a desperate need, to be behind the wheel. They told me of people who had gone crazy trying to meet society’s expectations. They told me they got better. That they went to their counselors or therapists; some even went to rehab, and they got better.
If you’re experiencing a mental illness, do not be scared to admit it. If you’re struggling with any kind of condition that makes you feel weak and hurt, talk to someone. It can help you move forward.