What do you call a scholar, an athlete, a leader, and a humanitarian all rolled into one? A high school student whom parents, teachers, and college admissions officers expect you to be. Nowadays, high school students are expected to perform at the highest level in the many endeavors in which they are involved. Merely being a good student - which, by definition, means a person who is studying at a school or college - by studying hard and earning good grades is not good enough today. As if the struggles of being a teen, including peer pressure and competition among classmates, were not enough, today’s teenagers must cope with the pressure of being a super human in order to attend a top-ranking school or please their parents. What more can society ask from a high school student?
Last year, at Peninsula High School, I witnessed a student who had scored 1600 on the SAT, never received a B in any of his classes, won numerous titles in debate tournaments, and was working as a research assistant at UCLA, get rejected by USC. The message that colleges are sending to today’s high school students is that the effort it took to overcome the tremendous pressure he was under to succeed in various aspects of his life was not enough. No wonder so many teens today are depressed!
After taking a small survey within Peninsula High, I found that 68% of students feel a high amount of stress every single day. In addition, 76% of the students feel depressed with 10% of those always feeling depressed. The numbers shouldn’t be that high and many students complain about the stress and lack of sleep they encounter every night. Although it is simply impossible to increase the number of hours in a day, there are other ways we can help students relieve all this stress.
Within high school, it seems as if students complain about how stressed they are towards teachers or family or friends, but how many actually do it? They may keep it to themselves because they do not want to feel like a nuisance towards anyone else and add stress on top of another person’s stress, or maybe they feel uncomfortable speaking with someone they know. According to the survey I conducted within Peninsula High School, only 28.4% of students feel completely comfortable speaking with a teacher or counselor at school. Why can’t that number be 100%?
When asked to comment on their own mental wellness, Peninsula students responded with “overworked,” “too much on my mind,” “feel like a failture,” or “socially distressed.” Another said it “would help if teachers were more accommodating and also understood ‘pen culture’ (e.g. taking a lot of aps, doing many extra-curricular) instead of ignoring / looking down on it and then spiting students.” In order to relieve some of the stress that students receive, they need to receive support from adults or even their peers because stress can trigger depression and mood disorders during the confusing and difficult time of adolescence. Mental illnesses are also very common and affect 46% of teenagers and 13% of children each year. Clearly the percentage of the mental wellness of teenagers is very unstable and needs to be addressed.
One really helpful support program is Community Helpline, which allows people to call in whenever they feel distressed and need someone to listen to their problems. One can call in to speak with a volunteer about anything going on in their life whether it be positive or negative. Usually after the call, the caller is much calmer or seems to be in a better mood because talking to someone about your problems is known to be healthier than keeping it all bottled up. Now, with students, I think it is important for them to feel comfortable about speaking with someone if they ever feel overwhelmed. Even this small support can make a big difference for just a single student.
Some schools have opened peer-to-peer listening programs that have been proven to beneficial, such as Walnut High School or Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School. These types programs allow students to develop and enhance the health the safety and overall education of our students by focusing on a positive peer to peer relationship.
Since not all schools can initiate these types of programs within school though due to the lack of funding or it being unprofessional, we need more programs like Community Helpline outside of schools. Community Helpline is a all volunteer-based program and with the help of your own community, peers, parents, and friends, you can create your own support group to guide distressed students in the right direction.
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Borchard, T. J. (2016, June 03). Why Are So Many Teens Depressed? Retrieved April 20, 2018.
Holthaus, J. (2018, February 28). The Importance of Mental Health Awareness. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
| Benefits of talking to someone | Getting help | ReachOut. (2017, May 3).
Sloop, K. (2015, January 8). Insights: The Magnus Health Blog. Retrieved April 25, 2018.