Schools stepping up mental health programs
More by Lydia Estepp
More stories from Lydia Estepp
April 17, 2018
High school students face high amounts of stress on a daily basis, and it can lead to depression, anxiety and a slew of other mental health issues. The mental health of high school students has serious effects on education, and schools should take a more active role in providing resources for preventing stress and depression.
High school students answer to higher standards and exist in a more competitive environment than in the past, making it more difficult to improve class rank. At the same time, the significantly more intensive college admission requirements of today demand higher grades, higher test scores and more extracurriculars, resulting in rapidly climbing stress levels. Not only that, but the rising price of college tuition requires more students in high school to take on part time jobs. This, partnered with increased amounts of schoolwork, results in even more stress.
To improve the mental health of students and subsequently improve our education system, high schools need to initiate programs such as in-class information sessions on mental health. These sessions and presentations will help introduce students to options in counseling and therapy as well as encourage open and honest discussions about reaching out and asking for help.
Many faculty members and students may see increased attention for mental health as a waste of class time and school resources. However, mental health deserves just as much attention as physical health and the benefit significantly outweighs the loss. Spending an hour or so of class time a month to ensure the safety of all students hardly seems like a drastic sacrifice to make. This addition would make the school a better place, but bigger changes still need to occur. Further down the road, schools should make the shift to a later start time to improve grades, attendance and student’s mental and physical health.
A busier schedule means students often sacrifice sleep to make time for homework and other important activities. Sleep deprivation in high school students results in worse grades, more teen car accidents because of drowsy driving, increased risk of sickness and higher rates of depression. A 2014 article by Mark Fischetti for Scientific American found that pushing schools to start an hour or more later can improve grades in core classes as much as a quarter step; from a B to a B+ for example. The article also linked sleep deprivation to tardiness and absences in morning classes, showing how early start times harmfully affect the education system.
The school needs to eventually shift the start of first period from 7:20 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. Many people will likely oppose this seemingly large change. To avoid that conflict, the school could shift the start time forward to 7:45 a.m. or 8 a.m. at first to prove the benefits and to gain feedback from students and faculty to ensure it works and to generate support. This change, if enacted, will benefit both students and faculty with higher attendance rates, better overall grades and test scores, safer roads and healthier students.
Communities hold schools responsible for students’ physical health, but often overlook their mental health.This can lead to negative effects on grades and attendance, higher rates of depression and anxiety and significantly large amounts of stress. Whether the school decides to make the changes suggested or not, the school definitely needs to take a more active role in providing resources for students’ mental health.