At least 10 million students aged 13-18 need professional help with a mental health condition, according to the National Education Association (NEA). High school students are facing the most severe mental health crisis among teens to date – but why is it so difficult to talk about?
Mental health issues can be very sensitive topics and oftentimes, it feels uncomfortable to discuss them in a school setting. But as the NEA’s findings show us, mental health and secondary education are very closely tied.
Schools are now practically tasked with the responsibility of providing mental health resources for students and teachers alike. Bernards High School has done its part in making materials available.
Ms. Drew, the Student Assistance Counselor (SAC), specializes in handling difficult situations and helping students with whatever emotional challenges they are facing. She is concerned by the “increasing pressures placed on students today.”
Ms. Drew said, “Anyone can become overwhelmed by the pressure, which is why it’s really important to examine what is in your control to change and what isn’t. Change could mean shifting your mindset or reframing the way you look at the situation. Students can reduce challenging emotions like anxiety by accepting that which cannot be changed. Acceptance means letting go of trying to change people and situations that are not within your ability to control.”
BHS also offers many student organizations and services to ease stress. The Wellness Club is a group intended to focus on the healing power of mindfulness. The Student Stress Less Committee is a group that organizes stress-busting activities and events. The monthly “meet-ups” in the guidance office offer students a safe place to have discussions about the challenges they are faced with and possible solutions.
It’s important to note that mental health issues are not abstract – local communities have recently been affected by tragic incidents involving teens who struggled with mental health challenges. Understanding what mental health disorders mean and how we can treat them, as well as working to remove the stigma of mental illnesses, may prevent future tragedies from happening.
Elena Berg ‘21 said, “I think it’s really important to talk about and acknowledge mental health, especially in high schools, and the fact that we had the ACT presentations is definitely a step in the right direction.”
The ACT program that Berg mentioned is new to BHS and guidance counselors recently gave presentations to all students in which they explained signs of mental health problems and different options for students who are struggling.
While programs and groups can help to ease woes for students, working to fight the mental health stigma could be even more impactful. Talking openly with others about mental health, educating yourself and others, and showing compassion for those with mental illnesses are all simple ways to normalize mental health challenges.
Resources are accessible for students who need them and the guidance office is eager to help anyone who could benefit from their services. Ms. Drew said, “Help is always available in the guidance department. You can also talk to a trusted adult at BHS or contact one of the hotlines posted around the school and on our website.”