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I can tell you one thing for sure: high-schoolers are not okay.
Some are, but the overwhelming majority of them are silently struggling with issues like depression and anxiety, but they don't even know it. Most of them have never been properly told about the importance of their mental health, so they ignore their suicidal thoughts and their bi-daily emotional breakdowns and live their lives. It shouldn't be that way.
I'm currently in the high school home stretch: Senior Spring. In just a few weeks, I'll be home-free to relax until I leave for college. As I can feel four years of memories, experiences, and friendships coming to a close, I know there is one part of high school that I won't miss at all: the stress.
Now, I know that stress isn't exclusively a part of the high school lifestyle; surely I will feel the same way when I graduate college and as I enter the workforce. However, in high school, it's neglected far more.
Teachers and parents simply don't worry about kid's mental health enough, at least not in the way that they should. Currently, I am taking Health, a course mandatory for all seniors; this is the first time an adult has ever spoken to me (and many of my classmates) about anxiety, depression, and coping mechanisms. The fact that it took 17 years for them to even introduce these topics is clear evidence that they don't think kids in the earlier grades are at risk, but they really are.
There are many reasons why a student might be experiencing stress, but two which stand out are the social life they have to maintain and their academic course load.
The social life aspect is rigged. It really is. But what can be said about it that hasn't been said a million times before? High school students are ruthless; they're judgmental, not just of others, but of themselves. When they don't feel as though they're meeting the proper standards of the status quo, they do everything they can to hide whatever it is they're lacking in. In the process, they're hurting themselves. They're concealing huge parts of themselves and their interests for nobody's benefit.
Students are taught, in TV shows and through upperclassmen, that having friends and a social life is worth more than their own happiness. This fact is clear; anyone could tell you that a given teenager will often ignore their mental health if it meant that they could be part of a friend group. The worst thing about it is that so many people know this, but nobody does anything.
This applies to academic course load, too. Some students end up engaging themselves in their studies for more hours out of a day than they sleep in a week because they're told that if they get good grades, they're setting themselves up to live good lives. 15 year-olds are having mental breakdowns because they don't know how to improve their grade. Oftentimes, resources aren't allocated to them. After-school help is becoming increasingly available, which is a definite positive, but there are kids who attend those at every opportunity and are still struggling immensely. They're giving up relationships and happiness so that they can show their parents results which, in a few years, will mean absolutely nothing.
The pressure to succeed in school is crushingly competitive. Students fight so, so hard to measure up to their friends and peers because nobody wants to be considered stupid; it's really horrible just because, if you really do fail, people really will judge you, and nobody says anything otherwise. Kids actually starve and deprive themselves of sleep in focusing on school, and it's because they don't know better. Students can become suicidal, but they see other people struggling similarly and assume that it's acceptable.
It isn't. It's not okay to let young kids struggle with stress they can't cope with and depression that they don't understand. Teachers and parents say nothing. They don't teach kids to value their own health. The system for informing them is disgusting at best; it basically relies on the fact that kids will figure it out for themselves, somehow. If they don't, they'll learn it during their senior year, when they've passed it already.
Students, in the moment, don't speak up, too. Depressive and suicidal thoughts develop in students from all demographics, regardless of their situation at home. Students with idyllic, communicative families still struggle because they don't know that they're supposed to say anything. They don't know that these thoughts are harmful because everybody has them.
They should be taught so much earlier (ideally, around middle school) about depression and stress and how to cope. They should be offered more resources (and offered them sooner) than one psychologist for (at my high school) over 3,500 students and the vast, oftentimes misleading internet.
Then, maybe high schoolers will be okay.