Prioritizing Positivity

Mental Health of High-School Students

Kaley Plaxton, Managing Editor

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“One out of every five children (ages 13-18) has, or will have a serious mental illness in their lifetime,” according to statistics by the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, only 50 percent of these people ever receive the help that they need to overcome their diagnosis.

Experts from the National Institute of Mental Health claim that, “anxiety is replacing depression as the main culprit as young people feel pressured to impress other people, and to succeed.”

High-School students stress every day about their physical appearance, grades, relationships, sports, and countless other things. Everyone has, or will experience anxiety at some point, but, what few people know is that many teenagers go undiagnosed and untreated when their symptoms could easily be reduced or cured.

For some youth, anxiety is strictly a feeling of nervousness and stress. Given the certain environment of high-schools, anxiety often stays with them like background-noise as they face deadlines and expectations. These feelings affect them more when they are forced out of their comfort zone, or when they feel inferior to their peers.

Other students struggle to push the feelings of anxiety aside though. Even without an identifiable threat occurring, adolescents with medical mental illnesses feel continual restlessness and uneasiness. They often face panic attacks, feelings of intense panic caused an abrupt episode of severe anxiety, accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms.

Those with diagnosable mental illnesses are at risk of having suicidal thoughts, or depression. “Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, the third leading cause for minors ages 10-14, and the second leading cause for people ages 15-34,” according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So what can High-Schools do to lower these devastating statistics?

They can start by improving the mood and mindsets that students have in school. The National Institute of Mental Health also recognizes that, “11 percent of youth have a mood disorder.” By creating a more optimistic atmosphere, schools can make levels of student anxiety decrease.

Let’s take a minute to paint a picture of a positive school environment.

In 2007, the National School Climate Council listed off the criteria for what creates an optimistic school climate. They portrayed that in their vision, “People are engaged and respected. Students, families, and educators work together to develop and live a shared school vision. Educators model attitudes that emphasize the benefits gained from learning. And each person contributes to the operations of the school and the care of the physical environment.” By being considerate of other people’s feelings and challenges, school’s can become more unified and welcoming.

Everyone will experience disappointment and pain at some point in their life. Another way to help students with anxiety is to remind them that failures never define them, and that there is no shame in needed help or having questions. If they overcome their self-inflicted feelings of humility they will be more likely to open up, and share what is on their mind. By establishing trust in high school, students will learn that they are stronger than they realize and they can persevere, and that they can always find support in their community.

Even a gesture as simple as acknowledging a student or greeting them has proven to boost a person’s mood, at least temporarily. By expressing empathy when listening to stories and opinions, even if the subject matter is personally unrelatable or meaningless, can lessen feelings of social isolation, increase optimism and joy, enhance acting with more compassion, and improve physical health. Any charitable action can spread the wealth of positivity in a high-school. By lifting one individual’s spirits, people can end up lifting many others’ through a boomerang effect.

Generally speaking, adolescents deserve to be treated with patience as they struggle with their self  concept. Our society needs to take anxiety in high-school more seriously, and to help students that struggle with it.

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Prioritizing Positivity