Content Warning: Self harm/Suicide is mentioned towards the end
High school can easily be some of our most awkward and embarrassing years. Between figuring out yourself––what you like to wear, your hobbies, your future jobs, your likes, dislikes, and anything else anyone may ask you––and balancing extracurriculars, grades, and college applications, life can get very stressful. And this does not even begin to describe the awkwardness of being surrounded by a bunch of people your age for the majority of your time there. Everything all together is basically a recipe for disaster, or at least a lot of stress. Although stress can be good to an extent, too much stress never is.
Mental health is an important discussion that many of us never have. Whether it is parents brushing off your worries as emotions every kid gets, your friends telling you you’re overthinking, or the many jokes about mental illness that make it seem not as serious, it is very easy to brush off any troubles or issues you may have with mental health as unimportant. The reality is that 1 in 5 students show signs of a mental illness of some sort. These issues students are facing are similar to, if not the exact same as, the issues adults are facing, such as anxiety, addiction, and depression (Anderson and Cardoza). The research done to get these statistics was also not incorporating the effects of COVID-19, as it was done prior to the pandemic. This likely means that the numbers have only increased now. It is crucial to ensure that each student is healthy in order for them to live a long and content life. But unfortunately, 80% of students are not getting the help they need (Anderson and Cardoza). This can have a drastic effect on students, and is something that is very concerning when looking at our generation.
It is evident that students are going through an immense amount of stress, which could cause future health problems. But we also must ask ourselves: where is this stress coming from? A study in Sweden, which observed students from birth until age 20, found a negative correlation between mental health and achievement in school, specifically high school (K; Brännlund A; Strandh M). While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and the differences between different childhood environments is also a factor to consider, this is still very concerning nonetheless. The conclusion of this study also is not very difficult to question when reflecting on our own lives, as we often know one or more students that struggle with mental health, and also put a strong emphasis on their grades. Other factors also need to be considered as well, like a student’s home life, their interactions on social media, their relationships with friends and teachers, and social isolation due to the pandemic. With this being said, it is still a large problem, and one that needs to be discussed and dealt with properly.
With large problems come large solutions, and although there is never a clear solution to any mental health issue, there are many ways that the school system can work towards bettering the mental health of its students. The reality of the situation is that although many schools do have places where students can get mental health help, there are simply not enough of these resources in order for each student to be helped properly (Anderson and Cardoza). It is crucial that schools have the proper funding in this area in order to provide their students with the resources they need in order to work towards ending this crisis. The federal government also provides students with the ability to check their own schools and how well they are doing in terms of mental health systems on their school safety website. This allows students to hold their schools accountable and for schools to know exactly where they need to work on.
The number of students with signs of a mental illness is extremely concerning, but there are small ways we can help. Listening to friends and checking in on people can do more than you might think. Even if a friend may not explicitly say they want to harm themselves, or want to take their own life, they may still be going through something extremely difficult, whether it is a mental illness or something else. Encouraging a friend to reach out to a professional, and providing them with mental health resources (like NYC well which allows you to talk to professionals for free, helping them look for therapists in their area if they have expressed interest in wanting therapy, or sending them a crisis hotline number like crisistextline if they are in immediate danger) is a great way to support someone. Sometimes, people also just need someone to talk to, even if they are not having a mental health-related issue. No matter how small, our actions can help greatly even if it is just simply sending a text message.
Anderson, Meg, and Kavitha Cardoza. “Mental Health In Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions Of Students.” NPR, NPR, 31 Aug. 2016,
Brännlund, Annica et al. “Mental-health and educational achievement: the link between poor mental-health and upper secondary school completion and grades.” Journal of mental health (Abingdon, England) vol. 26,4 (2017): 318-325. doi:10.1080/09638237.2017.1294739
Mental health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2021, from