Mental Health in Teenagers

Being in high school, I fully understand the pressures and stress placed onto teenagers in today’s world. I also realize that many of these heavy work loads and environments are meant to push today’s youth closer to success and prepare them for the real world, which they will soon be unforgivingly thrust into. However, the alarmingly high rates of mental illness reported in high school and college students is a clear indication that something in our school systems needs to change.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen years old have reported dealing with mental illness in their life. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youths. As if these statistics weren’t horrifying enough, 50% of students who experience mental illness will drop out of high school. The right to an education is being ripped from children’s hands in part by the school system’s lack of appropriate emphasis on mental illness education, prevention, and aid for its students. I have seen firsthand the way that teachers and school staff brush aside the validity of mental illness in teenagers. We all understand the importance of our education, but when administrators and teachers tell struggling students to brush aside their issues because “school comes first,” it is so counterproductive.

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This mindset is detrimental to both the student’s health and education, but if they had received the proper help when they first asked for it, it would benefit them mentally and in turn place more focus and motivation on schoolwork. Students who are told that their education comes before their mental health are the ones who have to drag themselves out of bed in the morning to go to school even when they feel at their lowest. The stigma placed on mental health issues, especially among teenagers, also needs to be addressed. Words like “freak” and “psycho” are too often thrown around when issues of mental illness comes up. School systems need to talk more about these illnesses are real and valid issues until they are taken seriously and have less of an initial shock factor, so that this stigma will disappear. When a student opens up about an issue they are combating, the question asked should be, “how can I help?”, not “what’s wrong with them??” Fear of bullying and alienation is a large reason why teenagers often remain silent about their problems, causing them to only become worse.