How Schools Should Handle Students' Mental Health
By: Jordyn Sharp (@jordynsharp32)
*Trigger Warning: mentions of self-harm and suicide*
Did you know that a teen takes their life every 100 minutes; about 15 kids take their life every day. That means about 5,500 teenagers die by suicide every year.
If they're 13-18, that means that they're going to school about 180 days of the year. If they're around people, why does no one notice any signs? Are teachers not noticing a change in these students? Is there no available help for these students? Are the students hiding it because they don't know where to go? These are questions I constantly ask myself.
I didn't have an easy four years of high school by any means. I've dealt with crippling anxiety and depression, and my junior and senior year I dealt with a lot of insomnia. I've self-harmed grades 7-12 and dealt with a lot of suicidal thoughts, and even attempted to take my life twice my junior year. I was also hospitalized my senior year for about two and a half weeks. Despite dealing with severe mental health problems for so long, I was extremely fortunate throughout high school. I've had many teachers help me through school. A lot of my teachers had reached out to me when they noticed that I was down. They would see that I was acting out of character, or that my grades were dropping so they would ask me if I was okay. Did I tell the truth? Of course not, I smiled and said that I was tired and went on with my day. Even though I almost always said I was fine, just the fact that they asked meant the world to me. I felt like someone cared. Just them asking and noticing that I wasn't okay was enough to help me get through the day.
To any teachers or really anyone that is working in a school: never be afraid to ask a student if they're okay, it might just save their life. A lot of people think that if they ask someone if they're suicidal or self-harming it will put the idea in their head and then they'll start. This is not true. Pull the student you are concerned about to the side and ask them, if you think they're lying to you, take it to the next level and tell the school guidance counselor they will be able to handle it better since that's what they're trained to do. If a student's grades are dropping do not yell at them or lecture them, chances are there is more to the story. Take the time to help them. Teachers should not just focus on teaching Math or Science but also learn life lessons, and help them get through hard times.
Students, reach out to your teachers or school counselor. The school counselor is there to help. I've had the privilege to talk to three school counselors and all of them we fantastic. I would have never made it through high-school without their help and guidance. If you don't have a school counselor for some reason, or maybe you, just don't click with him or her (which is totally normal) reach out to a teacher. I've had to talk to many of my teachers and explain what was going on. At first, it was extremely hard, and I often didn't tell them what was going on in fear of what they might say or think. It wasn't until my sophomore year I started opening up to my teachers. I had to explain to them that I have trouble participating in class because of my crippling anxiety. I had to tell that I miss a lot of school because my depression got so bad I couldn't get myself out of bed most mornings. I had to explain that my homework wasn't complete because I spent all night trying to talk myself out of suicide or keep myself from self-harming. It wasn't easy by any means, but it helped more than ever. Some teachers began to reach out to me, check up on me, and would now not call me out in class but instead talk to me after class. Even the teachers that didn't reach out to me to try and help, they were still understanding. I have not come across any teacher that put me down because of my mental health. Are there teachers out there that might? Yeah maybe, but the most important thing is to know you can't control someone else's feelings.
School is extremely hard to get through when you're dealing with mental illnesses. Always remember that there is always someone willing to help. Reach out to someone. Suicide is never the answer. There is so much support available to you; sometimes you just have to look a little.