September is national suicide and mental health awareness month where communities bring the spotlight to mental health issues. This year in the new pandemic environment, many teenagers lack interpersonal connection with their peers while facing stress from different areas creating significant challenges.
Based on data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 16.5% of United States youth aged 6-17 have experienced a mental illness disorder. In comparison, 50.6% of the children with mental illness or disease have gotten help or treatment.
“Over the past nine years as a high school nurse, I have personally witnessed a rise in teen anxiety, and social and emotional stress,” school nurse Mrs. Beth Evans said. “The environment that we live in sets the tone for the messages and expectations that teens receive every day. They are feeling pressure everywhere, no matter if it is real or perceived.”
As Mrs. Evans explained, many students are currently facing different types of stress and pressure from schools’ high expectations and the lack of social connections with their peers. The cycle of pressure from academics and social interactions can eventually lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
For example, current sophomore Tanvi Kanggralkar stopped enjoying her hobbies and things she used to love due to the pressure.
“A mental health issue that I am currently experiencing is anxiety, as well as severe mood swings from time to time.” Kangralkar said. “The reason that correlate to these issues is the tremendous amount of pressure I put myself under by telling myself that I have to be the best at everything. ”
Moreover, Kangralkar said that society should pay more attention to teenage mental health because early prevention can affect individuals in the long term.
“I believe that current society should focus on teenage mental health issues and how to prevent mental illness because it is important throughout every stage of one’s life whether it is adolescence or adulthood,” Kangralkar said.
Sophomore Amber Bahaji decided to take on another approach to find solutions and actions to improve her mental health.
“During this school year, I have started implementing designated times to break from school work. This method has been effective as I have accomplished more than I had without it, and I also become more relaxed when I take breaks.” Bahaji said.
Such methods can help students to take a break from the busy schedule of academic and social. Nevertheless, Amber also suggested prioritizing items that allow one to know what they need to accomplish and focus on what is vital to help one stay positive.
School nurse Mrs.Evans also believed that it is essential to pay more attention and take early actions to improve high school mental health since it can affect many aspects of one’s life.
“Mental health affects how teens think and perform in school and jobs. It affects how they feel and copes with even normal demands of life,” Mrs.Evans said. “Mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, can even lead to thoughts of suicide and self-harm.”
Additionally, Mrs. Evans suggested that people to find proactive ways to relieve stress before it gets severe.
“No one can completely avoid stress,” Mrs.Evans said. “This is why it is so important for teens to be educated on identifying signs of mental health concerns and strategies. It is equally important to educate teachers, parents, and friends on identifying teens with mental health concerns and supporting them.”
Here are some strategies that studies have shown improve mental health, self-esteem, and resilience provided by Mrs.Evans to the students:
Mindfulness—Take a few minutes every day to focus on one thing, such as your breathing and tuning everything else out around you.
Gratitude—Show gratitude to someone by writing a thank you note or doing a random act of kindness improves mood, happiness, self-esteem, and relationships with others.
Exercise—30 min of continuous physical activity every day (brisk walk, aerobic workout, playing sports, biking, etc.); exercise releases endorphins and hormones that improve your mood.
Sleep—Teens need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep (this is necessary for healthy development and also helps with attention and performance)
Drink Water—Drink a minimum of 8 cups per day of pure water; hydration helps keep your body working well, feeling great, and flushes out toxins.