Stress, depression, and an excessive amount of work have long characterized movies that satirize high school. For example, Yo-Yo in The Internship plucks out part of his eyebrow whenever he messes up a math problem, and Cady in Mean Girls is obligated to attend a math team competition instead of prom. Albeit fictional, the rates for these malaises are too exorbitant. Depression is the most ubiquitous health disorder in teens and affects about 2.8 million teenagers. There has been a 37% increase from 2005 to 2016 in the number of teens who have reported having depression for more than two weeks. However, only a third of affected teenagers are treated for their depression. Although there will almost always be some type of outside pressure that causes some degree of stress and depression, students should have sufficient resources to deal with these high levels of emotions as they can lead to detrimental outcomes like substance abuse and suicide.
Stress and melancholy have risen astronomically over the years. The amount of stress has risen to 49% of students reporting a large amount of stress daily. In such formative years for the psyche, everyday shouldn’t have to feel like a burden. Teenage years are an essential time of halcyon summers and self- discovery. This self-reflection helps create individuals who are empathetic, focused, healthy, and amiable according to University of Miami psychology professor Allen McConnell. However, with the current mental wellness deficits, 30% of teens that have depression end up forming a substance abuse problem and won’t be able to grow emotionally. This issue is partially due to an abysmal lack of care for these students.
The amount of resources available to alleviate these emotions has remained stagnant in contrast to the rising levels of stress and distress. There aren’t enough counselors to help students with issues since the existing counselors are overscheduled and don’t have the time to care for each student’s individual problems. California has the worst student to counselor ratio at one counselor for every 1,016 students. If students knew about or had more access to therapeutic resources like counselors, then 80% of depressed students could be successfully treated. These statistics are able to be abated through a multitude of options.
Some schools and universities have been innovative with their methods to aid students with their mental wellness despite a lack of funding. These institutions are helping students’ mental wellness by utilizing the benefits of talk therapy and having students themselves carry out this technique with their peers. Talk therapy is what it sounds like: talking about whatever problem may afflict someone. UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman attests to the scientific benefits to this therapy, claiming that by having a person state their concerns and emotions, the brain structure called the amygdala reduces its intense response to the issue, causing a person to improve psychologically.
Many high schools and colleges have implemented peer to peer counseling to take advantage of these talk therapy benefits. Students can become certified to be counselors and can give advice to other students who desire guidance and listen to their peers discuss their issues. UCLA has a similar program called the Resilience Peer Network by which students can offer support for their fellow scholars. As for high schools, Project Cal-Well, which aims to improve the mental wellness of students in two Southern California school districts, has started an organization called National Alliance of Mental Illness to accomplish such previous goals. The positive feedback from such options is encouraging for such burgeoning programs.
There is a promising system major prestigious universities like Princeton and Columbia are now implementing in response to a student led movement to help students who want talk therapy benefits but don’t want to be recognized. These colleges have implemented student run and created helplines that their peers can call or chat with any day of the week at set hours anonymously. However, there are some potential limitations to being able to implement some of the aforementioned methods in each school, and the success of each method varies.
Finances and legislation in states and districts do restrict which emotional wellness programs can be implemented and the extent to which they can be achieved. In an increasingly litigious world with a quotidian fear of lawsuits, especially in states like California, the system of training students to be counselors for their fellow students cannot be applied often. The reason why this can be risky is in the scenario that a student gives egregious advice or does a poor job listening to another student, which can cause the student’s mental wellness to worsen rather than improve. It is also unrealistic that all schools would have the resources to fund and establish their own helplines like Columbia and Princeton, which receive billions of dollars in nontaxable endowments by the government. It would be pricey and legally taxing for educational facilities to create some of these programs.
Nevertheless, schools should have some type of communicating option that is readily available to students. A lack of resources cannot be accepted due to the long-term problems that could that could result in students’ lives, such as drug addiction. In terms of things that can be done regionally for low cost, schools should try to implement peer lead and trained programs due to their myriad of benefits like the one UCLA has. Schools could also advertise emotional helplines on their campus like the Kids Helpline if they cannot afford their own helpline. Ideally, they would partner with local community helplines or fund their own to try to have a set time where peers could answer the helpline like at Princeton. More resources need to be advertised in general, such as other therapists a student could use to receive help.
While the culture of the pressure to succeed and what that entails emotionally cannot be completely changed, how educational facilities approach mental wellness and the number of students supported can be.