While we often resent schools for their excessive amounts of work, we tend to forget the mental issues they can contribute to. It is not only one of the biggest contributors to mental health decline but also continues to be a toxic environment for students. Alongside the workload, the pressure faced to always be perfect, become a class topper, keep up with the latest trends, and maintain perfect relationships with the people around you. This all can become a heaping pile and a lot to process for students. This societal and educational pressure can lead to all sorts of mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorder, and other mood or stress-related disorders. Keeping this in mind, I would like to share a common struggle among school-going students.
Middle school was not an easy ride coming from an environment like elementary school. There was a drastic change in schedules, workload, friends, and the overall school experience. Many had to adjust to the new standards kids were held up to and had to be on top of their work. It became common to get exponentially stressed and develop anxiety. To help prevent or cope with these issues, kids turn to harmful substances or alternatives, to get rid of the “pain”. I had witnessed my peers turn to vape, marijuana, etc., instead of seeking help. It is important to take care of yourself even when you are busy completing your daily tasks. When someone close to you feels overwhelmed, it can make a major difference to act as a companion, motivate and lend a shoulder. With guidance, anyone can overcome any obstacles, even if it seems impossible to begin with.
Other contributing factors are peer pressure and the normalization of the use of addictive substances. In high school, we often settle with the fact that everyone vapes and that it’s normal, but only a small fraction of the class questions what causes youngsters to turn to Juul. With the fruity smell of the bathrooms and the smoke trails left behind the bathroom doors we close, we assume that people are vaping just for leisure. Some users genuinely seek help for their problems but resort back to bad habits. Sure some people use it because they like it; however, statistics show that at least 4.11 million high school students use vapes. High schoolers often feel so embarrassed about their problems that they never speak up. If kids just talked to someone and sought help, many users would stop using toxic chemicals. Peer pressure also contributes to this percentage nationwide. Students already using substances also use persuasion, forcing their peers to do the same and creating a ripple effect. With awareness and more resources on mental health struggles, people will start to take these issues more seriously.
What are schools doing to prevent all this? Why are they not taking the measures necessary to guide their students in the right direction? Why don’t people ever speak up?
It seems that school contributes to mental health decline more than it helps. I believe that if counselors replaced occasional surveys with private conversations with students, it would create a much more comfortable environment for the students. A lot of the stress and anxiety also comes from the immense amount of pressure and work put on a student daily; they are pressured to take APs, get high standardized test scores, and eventually, get into the best college. These expectations are unrealistic when schools never give their students a break. Students fear missing a day of school as making up for even a day’s workload is dreadful.
To conclude, school can be a stressful environment and is a huge factor in mental health decline amongst students. More acknowledgment on this matter can benefit students and decrease the need for harmful distractions. Seeking help and reaching out should be normalized. Everybody’s needs are valid and faculties should contribute to making schools safer mental health spaces.