Photo credit: Myra Usmani
Whitney High School

Mental health of students: A problem left unaddressed

On the first day of school, so many students walk around confidently, strutting along campus with a gleam in their eye awaiting for the next class and the new challenge it brings. But by the next week that shine in their eye has dimmed, due to the constant stress and pressure each class puts on them. The minds of students are clouded due the anxiety school brings to them. Mental health is beginning to become a major issue among students and it is often left unaddressed.

The life of a student is difficult at times. We all know the story all too well, piles upon piles of homework, tons of tests to study for, basketball practice after school, tutoring every Monday just to keep up with math class. The schedule is set, but our mental health isn’t. The pressure is felt daily going from class to class, but competitive pressure plays a huge part in our health also.

In academically advanced schools, we go to class trying our best to absorb all the new knowledge thrown us, when the student right next to you has already learned it all for the SAT. Competition provides a lot of stress for matters such as college. This leads many to increasing study time, eliminating sleeping hours, more tutoring lessons, and extra curricular activities. By the end of the day, we are not just mentally exhausted but physically as well as emotionally due to being suffocated by the work load and constant stress of not being “good” or “smart” enough.

Students of all grade levels feel the anxiety build up. To truly understand how students were feeling throughout the school year, 7-12th graders were asked a couple of questions to sum up their thoughts about mental health for them and peers in their grade, ideas for faculty to ease hectic schedules, and what they do to relieve when academic life becomes stressful.

“Although being fresh to the Whitney environment, I have noticed that teachers tend to distribute homework loads to their students solely to finish certain topics, creating stressful conditions. I sometimes find it extremely difficult balancing school work with extracurricular activities. I have started studying days or weeks before tests, prioritizing the most difficult subjects,” said Nika Fedorova, 7th grade.

Often times the stress comes down to time managements but when you have an abundance of homework and studying to do, managing time is nearly impossible.

“Many of us have a hard time managing our time. Because of all the resources we have, we tend to sidetrack or take little breaks, but the times we spend relieving stress takes up time for studying, and we get stressed once again,” said Simran Doshi, 10th grade.

Two to five tests or quizzes are taken weekly from the seven or eight classes students attend. It may not seem like much, but when taking into account how many hours of studying each test will require, the barrier of no sleep is drawn.

“We are all pretty stressed out with the workload we get from all of our teachers. A lot of us usually stay up past midnight trying to finish homework every night and end up going to school exhausted and tired for the day ahead of us. All of us are emotionally and physically drained,” said Pagnavorn Hak, 9th grade.

The running problem most people face from studying is that they do not get enough sleep, and it seems as the higher the grade level is, the less incoming sleep hours received.

“Many people in my grade are sleep deprived in huge amounts. Sometimes as little as two or no hours of sleep are taken. When test or final exams are approaching, many people suffer from extreme stress and anxiety attacks,” said Ricky Gallardo, 10th grade.

Although the school has tried to help improve the mental health of students by having more spirit days or mandatory pep rallies, many students still find that it is not enough to help them with sleep deprivation or stress.

Many students suggested, “Teachers should probably coordinate with each other when they are giving tests, so we don’t have a ton racked up on the same day or week.” Even though this idea takes a lot of time to schedule, it could significantly help the students cope with stress.

“I think they need to realize that other teachers give just as much work and they can’t expect us to do it all. They need to remember that we’re already struggling with other classes and activities as is and can’t handle extra pressures,” said Evelyn Wu, 9th grade.

Even if teachers can’t schedule meeting or coordinate testings on different day, they can still do small things to take some weight off our shoulders.

“Sometimes I feel conflicted when teachers give us lots of homework and then tell us to not overwork ourselves. It would be helpful if teachers can make tests not worth so much and provide more extra credit opportunities so if we have an off day and do poorly on a test, so our grade can still recover,” said Eunice Park, 11th grade.

Teachers and counselors immensely care about their students, but the issue of mental health is still going unaddressed in a way that could truly make a difference.

“Over the years, my mental health has dropped considerably, as I would expect that from my peers as well. It’s caused me build ups of stress and anxiety that I hold accountable for my frequent panic attacks and night terrors. Sleep deprivation has become a part of everyone’s daily schedule and so decreases my ability to learn or even think,” said Dustine Ansiboy, 9th grade.

Many teachers do acknowledge the fact that we should take care of our health but many students notice that is much easier said than done.

“Teachers and counselors mention the importance of mental health, and how we should take care of ourselves, but it isn’t always that easy. I don’t know what they could do differently, but even if I did, I don’t think it’s going to change anything,” said Sydney Eng, 8th grade.

Many students suggested great ideas for teachers to use in means to help ease their workloads. It is obvious teachers are aware of the high pressure school weighs on students and have even tried different tactics to assist the complaints.

“I think it would be beneficial for teachers to stretch assignments of students evenly throughout the week, and we’ve even recently  been trying to implement that sort of system at our school,” said Ms. Danielle Locken. “We have a calendar shared among teachers to try to make workloads a little easier among students, we plan when we have majors test dates or projects so that we’re not jumbling it on students all at once.”

Teachers want students to know that even though workloads do get difficult to manage, they are always there to aid them in any struggles, or simply chat about their feelings and anxieties.

“I try to make it aware to my students that we truly care about students outside of school. I will think on any given day about a particular student, not just one student in general, but a particular student and wonder how they’re doing or notice something off,” said Mr. Jon Dalley. “That’s the first reason why many of us got into teaching, of course because we have a passion in a certain subject, but more importantly we enjoy helping and connecting with people and the number one priority for us is how students are doing.”

Truly all the staff want is for students to understand that they are not just a “figure” but actual humans who wants to make sure they are doing well mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“One thing I wished students knew was that teachers care far less about their subject matter than the students themselves. For the most part we are in this professions because we care more about people than English, baseball, or whatever you teach,” said Reitz. “It’s more if our avenue to impact students but I think our students really put us in a box such as that’s my English teacher so all he cares about is English, when in reality we care very deeply about our students, their well-being, their interests, and successes.”

As of now, many of us still are balancing our hectic schedule just to succeed in school. It does get extremely challenging at times to do well in academics yet still balance a social life participating in extracurriculars.

Teachers and staff have noticed the issues students face and are taking small steps to ensure that we are not constantly stressed and overworked, and it’s important to let teachers know certain ideas or suggestions you have when dealing with anxiety of uneasy agendas. Mental health is extremely important to not only students but also teachers and it is problem slowly but surely being acknowledged among staff.

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