Zoe Zheng / Staff reporter
The high school period is time for teenagers to figure out themselves. In this special period, most students may be affected by external and internal factors easily. This will directly cause some serious mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorder. Getting to know more about mental health is really significant to high school students.
“If you have a very positive value and are good at adjusting yourselves, it means you are mentally healthy,” explained Lee Huang, grade 12.
The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness or addiction problem, and 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
Factors that contribute to mental health problems are various: the quality of students’ home lives, relationships with peers, violence, parents, environment, media, and education.
“I feel most stressed when I am thinking of post-secondary, something about the future and getting good marks,” said Daisy Lin, grade 11.
“Anxiety and stress management are very common things that affect all people, particularly in teenagers,” said Victoria Butterfield, school counselor. “There are a lot of pressure and expectations on teenagers right now, including academic pressure and social pressure just for being a teenager.”
Nowadays, the presence of social media as added to social pressure. A lot of students may compare themselves online to everybody else, and they feel they are not as good as other people posting online.
Moreover, teenagers’ residence also largely influences their mental health. “Teenagers are living in a time where parents try to protect them and shelter them from anything stressful, so they don’t learn how to handle it,” added Butterfield. “Their resilience is going down, and we should actually build it up.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), indicates that emotional disorders can profoundly affect areas like schoolwork and school attendance. Social withdrawal can exacerbate isolation and loneliness. At its worse, depression can lead to suicide. In addition to depression or anxiety, adolescents with emotional disorders can also experience excessive irritability, frustration or anger. Symptoms can overlap across more than one emotional disorder with rapid and unexpected changes in mood and emotional outbursts.
“Mental health problems may make people feel that there’s something wrong with them,” said Butterfield. “But in fact, it is a very common part of life.”
Chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behaviour and dropping out are the major manifestations of mental health problems found in schools.
“Definitely, mental health problems can affect students negatively,” said Lin. “But for some people, those problems can help them to reach out to other people and allow them to communicate more with others.
Mental health issues are not always bad things, and it is not impossible to deal with them. Not only students themselves need to put in the effort to overcome those problems, but also the people around them should offer help and support.
To deal with mental health problems, students themselves can get enough sleep and eat well. Because enough sleep can effectively reduce students’ anxiety, and nutrition has a big impact on mental health. Students should learn to have some good coping skills and know what strategies they can use when they are stressful. Having a good support network of friends, adults, relatives, relationships, counsellors and teachers that students can talk to about their struggles is also a helpful solution because they are able to realize it is not as bad as they think and they have the ability to overcome the problems.
“Talking to your friends or someone whom you are close with,” suggest Lin as a strategy to cope.
Students’ family members and teachers play an important role when high school students are facing mental health problems. Most of the time, students may feel even better when the adults around them provide some help.
The first place to spot trouble is in the home, whether that trouble is substance abuse, slipping grades or a teenager who has problems with his or her sleep. Family members are often the first to notice something going on. However, sometimes they may not pay attention to those signal problems. A serious problem can be overlooked as “just a phase.” Family members should keep in close touch with the school and spend more time on communication with their children when their children have those suspicious signals.
School social workers act like a bridge that connects school and parents. Making sure students are mentally healthy is a big part of their goal.
“We encourage students to come and see us, so it lets us know that they are having a hard time,” said Butterfield. “And we can talk about different things, such as practicing some strategies and some breathing techniques.”
Gleneagle counselling department offers a list of handouts about coping strategies that high school students can try and some resources they can access. There is also a program called “Bounce-back”, which is designed to help teenagers to manage their mental health. Students can go to see their counselors for more information.
A lot of students do not know how to identify whether they have mental health problems or not. Here are ten early signs of mental health problems. If students have any of the following symptoms, they should pay attention to their mental health and seek some help. 1. Students have marked changes in personality, eating or sleeping patterns. 2. Students have an inability to cope with problems or daily activities. 3. Students have a feeling of disconnection or withdrawal from normal activities. 4. Students have unusual thoughts. 5. Students feel extremely anxious. 6. Students have thoughts or statements about suicide or harming others. 7. Students have prolonged sadness, depression or apathy. 8. Students have substance misuse. 9. Students have extreme mood swings. 10. Students have excessive anger, hostility or violent behaviors. If students are concerned about their mental health, they are always welcome to seek advice.
Students should focus on their mental health all the time and feel free to share the problems they are facing.
“One day, all teenagers feel comfortable talking about their mental health, whether it is in a good shape or bad shape. We should feel comfortable saying I am struggling with the depression right now, or my anxiety is very high right now, without worrying people will judge that,” concluded Butterfield.