Exploring the youth’s mental health as a result of all the stress their community and environment puts on them.
I’m approaching the end of my time in high school, which means the pressure has started actively to work on the whole process of university applications. From pulling all-nighters to studying for endless tests and simultaneously practicing for the countless standardized tests you have to undergo for universities admission, to cramming your week with as many extracurriculars as you can, collecting those precious volunteer hours, moreover, barely keeping up with a hobby while maintaining an active social life, etc.
Everything is moving too fast. All this talk about the future is exhausting, how am I (a 15-year-old) supposed to make crucial decisions that will have everlasting effects on my life? It is just too draining. They say the answers are within me and that apparently I know myself more than anyone else. However, self-doubt is a monster lurking deep within me stifling every ounce of self-esteem I have. In all honesty, I don’t exactly know myself. I am still growing, discovering, experimenting and getting to know me. The future is near and supposedly bright, yet the transition can be an extremely stressful ride and daunting. I often find myself in a position where I am paying excessive attention to my future self rather than my current self. Therefore, I am always feeling like I am sleep deprived, hardly eating anything, and unconsciously harming my mental health.
Society has engraved many false ideologies that are affecting the mindsets of many students today. One of them is taught at an early age through tests and scores that our grades define our intelligence and abilities. We are praised for the A’s and criticized for the F’s; hence, as we grow, we naturally accept this methodology. There are several negative outcomes that come along with these false perceptions.
According to a survey conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, the year 2015 marks the seventh year in a row that anxiety has been the uppermost complaint among students seeking mental health services. 51% of students in today’s world reported having anxiety, followed by depression with 41%, and suicidal ideation with 20.5%. Several students reported experiencing multiple conditions at once. According to an article published in 2018 by “The Conversation”, 1 in 5 students suffer from mental health issues, yet not many are aware of the dramatic rising rates among students. Therefore, there is little or no awareness of this burning issue. As a high school student, I can unquestionably state the fact that there isn’t much light shed onto this topic due to the stereotypical image the society has drawn about teenagers. Loud, obnoxious, rebellious, out of control, careless, and up to no good; these are just a few of a wide number of stereotypes that are attributed to teenagers. As a result, many belittle the emotions and problems of teenagers, by giving out repetitive excuses, “it’s just a phase”, “it’s your hormones”, and many more. Consequently, it may lead students to feel that asking for help is a shameful act, especially when it comes to mental health, a general reluctance to admitting a problem in mental health is more common than in any physical illness.
I’ve observed that even when students finally build up the courage and strength to admitting to their mental health issues, labels are almost immediately placed on them. The community we are in sometimes views those who are suffering as “attention seekers”, “weird” and even “psychotic”. As a result, we suffer alone in the dark which majorly affects us “academically” and that appears to be our society’s top priority.
By conducting a quick survey among high school students, my point has been reaffirmed. 71% of the students who took my survey admitted to a mental health issue. Stress-related disorders ranked highest, followed by anxiety and depression. A majority of the respondents reported not reaching out to someone although a handful considered but didn’t.
It seems that the whole future rests on our shoulders, that we (the youth) are going to be the future leaders who will make a difference and fix the magnitude of the past generation’s mistakes (global warming, political tensions, cyberwars, etc.). I’m not saying that we’re not capable of fulfilling these expectations, but if we don’t receive the much-needed help, advice, and mentorship that we require, in a comfortable and understanding environment, our chances of succeeding would be compromised.
In my opinion, I believe the beacon of hope is within our reach. If everyone put a little more effort to melt away the stigma around mental health. If schools started acknowledging their student’s mental health issues rather than be strict on what socks color they wear. If parents were a little more understanding of the “new” generational issues and open to whatever resources that they need (therapy, treatment, etc.) instead of being embarrassed and denying the existence of the issues with phrases such as “not my son!” “what will people say?”. If society raised more awareness about mental health and stressed on the point that everyone suffering should seek help without hesitation, then no one would suffer alone, and people will know that their mental illness does not define who they are. I believe in a world where no one would be ashamed of their mental illness and help would be provided for those who need it. I believe in a better world.
Al Reem Albeshr is a 15-year-old feminist, mental health advocate and student who is in the pursuit of finding herself through the art of filmmaking and the pages of books.