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  • Jaclyn Kotora

Evaluation Of Mental Health In School

By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief


Going back to school can be daunting for students of all ages and backgrounds. The extensive workload from teachers, public speaking, socializing, cliques, peer pressure, and inevitable drama is a big stressor for many young adults. This academically competitive and socially intimidating environment can be especially challenging for people who suffer from mental illness.

Individuals with mental illness may face more obstacles while learning, as mental health complications can affect a student’s ability to think rationally, learn, grow, and develop. Therefore, these problems increase risks of repeating a grade, truancy, and dropping out of school. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

“ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly

diagnosed mental disorders in children. Estimates for ever having a diagnosis among

children aged 3-17 years, in 2016-19, are given below:

ADHD 9.8% (approximately 6.0 million)

Anxiety 9.4% (approximately 5.8 million)

Behavior problems 8.9% (approximately 5.5 million)

Depression 4.4% (approximately 2.7 million),” (Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention).

There are many more people who are undiagnosed, and these estimates have only increased over the last few years with the emergence of COVID-19 and isolation, as well as the increased prevalence of social media in society. Within school, symptoms of depression surface in difficulties in concentration, poor mood, loss of motivation, activities and interest, low self-worth, social withdrawal, changes in appetite, and sleep disruption. Along with these symptoms, grades may be detrimentally affected. “The reasons may be the neurocognitive impairments that often accompany depression—such as reduced attention, an impaired ability to organize one’s work, and impaired memory function,” says the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, “These reinforce the changed self-perception regarding one’s own capability that accompanies the depression. Affected students experience their inability to perform as a personal failure […] which triggers additional stress. Because of their depression, such students cannot compensate for the learning impairment. This cycle is amplified by the fact that adolescents are less likely to seek help; consequently, support and relief regarding their school-related demands mostly comes too late for those affected,” (Dtsch Arztebl Int.). In more simple terms, depressive symptoms can lead to discrepancy between school expectations vs. ability (or vise versa), the false/poor self-perception and negative self-talk and feedback, causing a slow, low-motivated working style, and therefore an increased impairment in performance. This cycle, however, doesn’t mean that students with depression are doomed to this cycle of self-deprivation and failure. One way to navigate through these mental health issues is focusing on being forgiving and kind to oneself and remembering to set aside time for self-care. As Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health, explains, “With homework to complete, extra-curricular activities to participate in and friends to meet up with, it’s easy to forget the very basics of self-care, such as getting enough sleep, exercising, drinking enough water, and eating a balanced diet. However, if you neglect these essentials, you may end up feeling groggy and be more susceptible to the stress and pressure of the school environment.” Although school is undeniably important, mental health should always come first. Ultimately, teachers, parents, and peers want what is best for each student, and will care for them regardless of academic performance, so it is important to not put too much pressure or expectations on oneself to avoid burnout and increased depression. And if mental health symptoms seem manageable, it is strongly encouraged to reach out to communicate with the school and one’s parents to receive help and find accommodations/tips for academics and the school environment.

Many schools and staff members are equipped with resources to help students suffering from mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) claims, “School-based mental health services are delivered by trained mental health professionals who are employed by schools, such as school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses. By removing barriers such as transportation, scheduling conflicts and stigma, school-based mental health services can help students access needed services.” Despite the availability of these resources, it is also recognized that certain environments may lack modern, effective practices regarding mental health, and although improved, there still is stigma over discussing mental health. The following is anonymous student opinions regarding how mental health is handled in school:

“I think the topic of mental health is slightly avoided. It's very black and white when it comes to the conversation on the topic… I think that the majority of people just avoid the talk of mental health mainly because it can be extremely confusing for some people or it can be uncomfortable to talk about and address.”

“In my opinion, the talk about mental health at IHHS is really limited […] I have heard loads of

stories from friends about their guidance counselors saying extremely insensitive things,

which event triggered me at some moments. Yes, I understand that school counselors

shouldn’t be someone to come to in all situations, but for some students, that's all they really

have.”

“I think that mental health is a topic that is becoming more and more open which is

benefiting the student body.”

“I believe there is a lot of bias between the genders when it comes to mental health […]

Constantly, I hear boys talking about girls being so ‘dramatic’ or ‘emotional’ – Even

sometimes I hear jokes saying how, ‘It's always her time of the month.’ Then there's girl

conversation on how guys can actually be really fragile or bottle up their emotions. But, then

you also will hear girls talk about how guys are ‘so tough’ but also heartless. I believe there is

a lot of bias between the genders when it comes to mental health, and there's also a lot of

bias when it comes to age and mental health.”

“There is a long way to go… [There have been] noticeable strides to address mental health

amongst its students; however, gathering information across the student body, claiming that

there are potential resources available, or offering reassurance that the conversation of

mental health is an open one, are not necessarily the problem. The problem comes when

results of said surveys or emails come back displaying warning signs and actually

implementing those supposed resources becomes crucial. I’ve seen this on multiple

occasions, and I think there just needs to be people involved who can truly take the action

needed in times like these. Teachers and even guidance counselors are not trained in solving

those more threatening problems, and that is okay, as long as there really is someone who

can if that is being implied.”

“The biggest con is that the majority of people are insensitive to the topic of mental health,

uneducated on the topic, or just uncomfortable with the [reality] of mental health. If it's

going to be talked about, I think it has to be the right presenter, the right audience, and the

right time. I once had a teacher say, ‘This generation is so sensitive. Just toughen up and be

happy.’ Understandably, the teacher may not have been educated when it comes to mental

health, but that comment can be rather insensitive to those who struggle with it.”


These mental illnesses have consequences for others in terms of harmfully affecting relationships in the work space, productivity, morale, empathy/grief, and more, (Suicide Prevention Resource Center). In light of the elevated and increasing prevalence rates of mental health complications in children and adolescents and its significance in the student’s scholastic development, efforts in education systems should be sustained to make sure students are getting the help that they need. Perhaps a re-evaluation of the nature of modern mental health is needed to best understand what resources are needed to provide for the mental health crises. In addition, adolescents and their families should be informed of options available in the healthcare system and education system about the access to mental health services, not only for the student’s benefit, but the peers, faculty, family, and community.




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