By Zunaira Bibi ‘18
The mental and emotional health of high school students from all over the world seems to be drastically deteriorating. Compared to previous generations, the teenagers of today have soaring levels of depression, stress, and anxiety. Research by various scientific organizations has been conducted, such as by the American Psychological Association, to try and understand why this is suddenly a rising epidemic amongst teenagers.
“Depression, anxiety, and stress have definitely increased over the past 15 years,” said Mrs. Fern Bren, an assistant principal of guidance who often supports students when they deal with such difficulties.
She explained that one of the major causes for an increased rate of mental disorders among teenagers is their interaction with social media. Teenagers rely so heavily on social network sites that they refrain from sharing their grievances with their loved ones.
“Social media is one of the reasons that these disorders are so prevalent. Nothing is ever over anymore,” she said. “There’s no way to shut these networks off for good.”
Mr. Jason Richardson, a dean and history teacher, believes that these problems were always present, just not addressed.
“When I first started teaching, we didn’t really devote a lot of time towards depression and anxiety. We weren’t taught a lot about signs of a kid who might be suicidal or having a lot of issues dealing with depression,” said Mr. Richardson. “However, we’ve focused on it a lot more in the last 10-15 years. There are some meetings we have to go to about it and we have professional development on signs of depression and suicide, so teachers know now to report it.”
Although teachers have more knowledge on how to deal with situations in which students are mentally suffering, the numbers are too high for each and every student to find someone to confide in. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “two new meta-analytical studies involving thousands of children and college students show that anxiety has increased substantially since the 1950s. In fact, the studies find that anxiety has increased so much that typical schoolchildren during the 1980s reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did during the 1950s.” The article argues that anxiety levels have increased due to dysfunctional families that are usually run by single parents. The parents’ absence and inactive engagement in their child’s life leave him or her disconnected and distrustful of other people. If a teenager is already struggling with trust, it might be safe to assume that he or she would not reach out for help from someone in school, either.
While dysfunctional families can cause anxiety levels to skyrocket, many claim that the academic workload provided by school, as well as the school environment in general, can lead to depression, stress and anxiety. According to a NBC News article, “Teens More Stressed-Out Than Adults,” teenagers can be negatively impacted by the pressure of succeeding in school with extravagant grades in order to achieve a bright future. According to the article, “An increased emphasis on make-or-break school testing and sharp focus as early as middle school on future college or career plans can be intense for some kids.” This shows how greatly students are impacted by just thinking about what is to come in the future.
Carina Pierre-Louis ’18 said, “I feel immense stress almost every day. There are just so many questions I have for the future and so many demands in school that it’s hard juggling it all together. For me, I think I worry about what I’ll do with my life,” she said. “We live in a society where if you’re not a doctor or lawyer, you are coerced into thinking that you won’t be successful, which I feel is very wrong and adds additional pressure on students.”
Pierre-Louis ’18 isn’t the only student who feels as if school is a major cause of the increase- in mental disorders. Willie Anderson ’17 and Zakria Khan ’18 also believe school is a cause for the health of students to depreciate. Khan ’18 says that while he’s at school, he doesn’t realize how vast his workload is, but as soon as he gets home, it all starts clouding over him and gives him anxiety.
Anderson ’17, on the other hand, has more of an issue with the school not being helpful enough. He said, “I feel as if the school needs to do a better job on helping seniors to cope with the college application process. It is a lengthy procedure that has an immense impact on seniors because of how stressful it can get.”
As shown in the website suicide.org, almost 5,000 youngsters between the ages of 15-24 kill themselves every year due to severe depression. If you know someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or any mental disorder that may prove to be fatal, contact a counselor. Midwood has guidance counselors, social workers, and a psychologist who can help students experiencing emotional problems.