Youths’ Mental Health More Fragile Than Ever

Mental health is an important part of being human. To be able to do anything requires motivation, and having motivation requires being mentally healthy. 

The seventh-grade gym teacher, Katherine Shapiro, stated that “a teen’s ability in school is influenced by mental health.” Per se, if someone wasn’t mentally healthy, they would be struggling with school, struggling with socializing, and lacking motivation. 

Maintaining your mental health isn’t easy considering the struggles of life.  Students struggle with anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, and more. In addition, trauma affects mental health and can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Living through the pandemic, losing a parent or close family member, parents divorcing, and even just watching the news about school shootings and disasters can all be forms of trauma.

“Mental health has a lot of impacts,” said Longfellow’s school psychologist Dr. Julia Blasey. “If we’re not taking good care of our mental health. It can impact a lot of different areas.” 

Dr. Blasey pointed out that physical health and mental health are closely related.  

“You might find if you’re struggling with your mental health that you’re also struggling in terms of getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, [and] eating healthy. You might sometimes have things like headaches or stomach aches, or other physical complaints, and that could be really, kind of, correlated or related to mental health.”

She also pointed out that it can affect learning. 

“If you’re struggling with mental health, you might find it hard to pay attention as much in school or to really learn as well as you could.”

Mental Health America reported that the District of Columbia is the least common to have children who suffer from mental illnesses as of 2023. In 2022, Virginia was reported to be ranked as twenty-one in having fewer incidents of children reported to struggle with mental illnesses but drastically dropped down to forty-eight in 2023. The 2023 report says that “19.56 percent of Virginia’s teens—from twelve to seventeen—have reported to have gone through a major depressive episode in the past year.” Virginia, with 15.7 percent of youths suffering with severe major depression, is ranked forty-five within the percentage range of 5.2 percent to 19.9 percent. The number of youths that were diagnosed with substance use disorders in Virginia is 6.99 percent, ranked as thirty-seven. Many charts from Mental Health America’s 2023 report show Virginia’s high percentage of youths suffering with a lack of good and stable mental health. The difference between 2022 and 2023 is quite large in youths who are dealing with unstable mental health. From the same report by Mental Health America, there are about one or so million more people who have a mental health problem in 2023 than in 2022. 

Many schools ask students to take surveys describing their mental state. They are asked about whether or not they are feeling stressed, dealing with any issues at home or in school, taking any medication or substances (possibly products they shouldn’t be consuming), and other questions involved in mental health. However, the information from these surveys is most likely not 100% accurate since students may not be truthful on the survey.

Every school has at least one counselor or social worker for the students who attend that school. School counselors specialize in checking up on the students of their school, making sure they’re healthy and not stressed out about school or personal affairs; similar to a therapist.

Not every state requires a counselor, but Virginia happens to be one of the many states that do. Although having a school counselor may not be mandatory for some schools, it really should be. Many students do happen to open up more to school counselors than their own parents. 

Mental health can affect all types of health — physical, emotional, social, and environmental. Longfellow’s health class shared statistics with students showing that eighth grade students were more likely to get involved with gangs and illegal activities or skip school if they feel unsafe in school, hanging around their peers, have parents that are either involved in gangs, or engage in risky behavior or make bad decisions in life, or want to fit in, in school. It is also said that people who bully or make fun of another person usually are dealing with problems themselves and are taking their issues and anger out on others.

Longfellow Middle School adds hotlines and lifelines on the back of every student’s identification card. On the identification cards, it contains a Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a Crisis Test Hotline, and a National Domestic Violence Hotline. Thirteen states — Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington — have a hotline called the States Fund 988 Mental Health Hotline, which is a government-approved funded project.