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Mental health at SDHS

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Kyla Taylor

Kyla Taylor

Please note: All quotes and statistics were gathered through an anonymous survey distributed to a random sample of the SDHS population. Names remain anonymous at the request of the students.

The Hawk decided to uncover how mental health is represented throughout Stephen Decatur in hopes to break the stigma and create a discussion about topics that are seemingly hard to talk about.

The most common types of mental illnesses among teens are depression and anxiety. Depression is scientifically described as a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are numerous factors affecting the illness, such as genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and physical medical problems.

Mental illness is not just limited to depression and anxiety. Other types of mental illness in teenagers include, but are not limited to, eating disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, ADD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Statistics show that one in five students across the nation suffers from some type of mental health disorder during adolescence. The Hawk surveyed a sample of students of all backgrounds at Decatur to determine how mental illness affects our school. According to the survey, 32 percent of students said they suffered from some type of mental illness. The average class size of 20 consisting of at least one student who suffers from depression, and four students who suffer from anxiety.

Classes that were made up of seniors and juniors had a larger percentage of those who suffered from anxiety, but most of them said they would be comfortable talking to a trusted teacher or staff member. A student responding to the survey said,  “[I would reach out to a teacher] because I have created bonds with some of my teachers and can trust them.”

According to NPR, this is a silent epidemic among teenagers, and most of the time it goes unnoticed. Even if signs are recognized, most schools and communities lack the tools to effectively provide help for these students (pbs.org).

Only 34 percent of Decatur students said they believe that the teachers and staff of SDHS are able to recognize a student in distress, and only 42 percent said they would feel comfortable talking to a school counselor or teacher for help. “The teachers are not qualified to help a student in need, they just wouldn’t understand what we’re going through,” said a Decatur student. Another added,     “I’m the type of person who always has a straight face, so when something is wrong… there are some very negative teachers here.”

What most students do not know is that Worcester County has a program in which teachers can sign up to take a course on mental illness. The Youth Mental Health First Aid USA training course provides a curriculum centered on recognizing specific signs and how to help a student in need. This training educates teachers on signs of mental illness in children from elementary school to adulthood, specifically in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and behavior disorders. At the end of the training, teachers are tested and receive a certificate proving that they are capable of assisting a student who is going through a mental health crisis.

Decatur also provides more resources for students, which are available in the guidance.

Research suggests that the stigma around mental illness begins during childhood when adults refer to specific children’s actions as “weird” or “crazy.” This stigma continues into teenage years, as most health classes do not extensively discuss mental illness. “We didn’t learn about it in health class, so I don’t think the school knows how to address these issues,” stated one student.

As mental illness continues to be an increasingly concerning issue among teenagers, breaking the stigma is important. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some ways to do so include talking about mental illness, educating yourself, being conscious of your language (don’t use mental health conditions as adjectives), show compassion for those struggling with mental illness, don’t shame people for seeking help, and lastly, don’t feel ashamed if you suffer from mental illness. You are not alone.

If you believe you or a friend suffers from any type of mental illness, contact a trusted adult or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

 

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Mental health at SDHS