Be positive. Never give up. Do your best. These phony phrases are reminiscence of posters plastered in classrooms, a bandaid over the wound of mental illness in the schools. The CDC reported that suicide was the 2nd leading cause for 10-14 year olds in the US. Panic attacks. Depression. Meltdowns. Mental health is a teenage dilemma- how do we know that school is part of the problem?
In 2013, the APA conducted a survey, discovering that during the school year students tend to be more stressed than adults (5.8 vs 5.1 on a 10 point scale).
“Underlining the seriousness is the fact that 60 percent of high school students with mental illness don’t graduate,” (Western Governors University). School isn’t built to harbor the 1 in 5 students that might have mental health disorder. (NPR). The ACLU found that only 4 states meet the recommended: 1 school psychologist per 750 students. More so, only 3 states meet the well recommended 1 school psychologist per 250 students. School psychologists are necessary. They regard signs of mental illness in students and provide them with healthy ways to cope and thrive in school.
Mental health days are a bliss for students, an excursion providing sweet relief from the many stressors of school. “Ms. Rothman [Jennifer Rothman – a manager for the youth and young adult initiatives for National Alliance on Mental Illness] said the days off not only give students a chance to speak up about their needs, but help break the stigma associated with mental health,” (New York Times). The majority of schools don’t provide mental health days, or categorize mental health as a viable reason to miss school.
Why would students want to miss school? School can be suffocating. The Better Sleep Council revealed via survey: 74% of teens listed homework more stressful than self esteem issues, teenage bullying/drama, etc. Students lose themselves in the piling stacks of schoolwork. Motivation is lost- mental health spirals. Mental health days provide time to catch up on missing work, prepare for a test, or to focus on mental health.
How do we make school better for mental health? By encouraging Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, to consider implementing mental health days into schools, providing funding to help every school maintain the adequate amount of school psychologists,and encouraging teachers to lighten the homework.
Most importantly, adults must listen to students. We aren’t “just kids”, but people. Therefore we must be treated like such. Check in on students. Understand why they might have bad grades. School can be a place to destigmatize, educate, and learn how to cope with mental health issues- all adults need to do is listen.
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