Mental Health in Students: The Silent Pandemic


Written by: Rylee Jones, Reporter

Mentally healthy teens are more successful in school and life. However, mental health has a stigma around it that makes it difficult for many to open up if they are struggling with mental health. According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five kids experience a mental health problem during their school years. They also show estimates of up to 60% of students do not receive the treatment they need due to lack of access to services. School can negatively impact students mental health by having a lack of connectedness, excessive work loads and not having enough help services at the school.

Students with good school and good social connections are less likely to develop mental illness. When a school has a lack of connectedness, this can do the opposite. Connectedness is describes on how welcome a student feels and how enthusiastic to be at a school a student is. Staff to student relationships also play a big part in connectedness. A recent dissertation on schools and depression stated that higher school connectedness for suicidality in adolescents suggests that enhancing school connectedness may be a useful strategy for preventing suicidal behaviours. In addition to this, a Gallup poll finds that only 44% of high school students feel engaged at school. This shows that many students lack that connectedness, and this can be a significant risk for adolescent mental health.

Excessive work load at school can cause extra stress for students. At BLHS, instead of a typical semester, students are learning a semesters worth of material in a few weeks. Out of 12 students surveyed, all 12 felt that school is causing them more stress this year than in past years. Discussed causes of this included the pandemic and the extra workload at school. The way students brain adapts to stress may “predispose or unmask a vulnerability to psychiatric disorders, substance use disorders, or both,” according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. Teens do not have a fully developed brain yet, so these adapting habits can be detrimental to their mental health now and in the future.

Of the 40% of students that do receive treatment for their mental health, only two-thirds of those do so in school. Without mental health services, school unknowingly creates a stigma around talking about mental health struggles. When mental illness is not recognized by staff as a prominent enough issue to provide services for students, this makes students feel as though they cannot openly speak about it to get the help they need. Schools that have created this stigma should fix it because according to the Centers for Disease Control, depression and anxiety rates in ages 11-17 have increased since the beginning of the 20th century and continue to increase.

Schools need to be aware of how they are negatively impacting the mental health of students. By simply putting themselves in student’s shoes and recognizing what they can do to help, schools can have a more mentally healthy student body. The school is already taking steps in the right direction by making these services more available, however, there is always room for improvement. COVID-19 is the pandemic making news headlines, but don’t forget to pay attention to the silent pandemic- mental illness.