Faculty and staff need to be alert to student mental health

School can get especially grueling during long winter months

School stress can leave students feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

Creative Commons/by naraekim0801

School stress can leave students feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

Catherine Braxton, Staff Writer

The young minds of students beat and throb like heartbeats in a cage, in a prison that is enveloped in stress and anxiety, in a prison that is often mistaken as a school. The minds of a lot of students, these young student minds, can get overwhelmed with the tasks of absorbing information and handling the pressure schools place on the backs of students just to become society’s diamonds.

Faculty and staff need to pay more attention to the mental health of the students they take under their care, under their wing. It’s their job to make sure kids are ready to take on the world, but too many of these children have never felt the protective shade of those feathers, thus never knowing how to fly in the future.

In 2017, D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education surveyed over 17,000 teen students and found that “41.7% of the students who feel sad, empty, hopeless, angry, or anxious rarely or never get help.” 

That’s almost half of them who say that they don’t get help with their mental state of mind. That is not okay! How can a teacher be with a student for an entire year and not notice that they are struggling? How can faculty and staff members be invisible to these kids’ suffering? Mental health shouldn’t be overlooked like this, especially with the young.

As a student, I know that the academic pressure on some students can be difficult to handle. So far, during my school career, I’ve had an extremely heavy weight placed on my shoulders by some of my teachers and other people around me.

That weight is a huge pile of standards that people want me to exceed just because they think I’m capable of doing such. This can cause me to overwork myself, and put my mental state in the backseat while having other’s expectations driving my life. Just so I won’t disappoint anyone. 

This is no way for a student to live, for anyone to live. 

Peter Gray, an American researcher and professor of psychology at Boston College says that the mental health of children and teens is often directly related to school. He conducted a three-year study between 2011 and 2013 that showed the relationship between pediatric emergency mental health visits and the school year. The data revealed that “the average monthly number of emergency mental health intakes for school-aged children … during school months was slightly more than twice what it was in July and August.”

          It is completely normal for students to feel stress at some points in their school career, but that stress shouldn’t have them needing to go to the hospital. That should be addressed inside the school, with the help of the teachers and staff members who witnessed all of this mental strain build-up.

          Teachers can argue that their jobs aren’t easy and they are put under constant stress as well, and they wouldn’t be wrong. 

          In 2017, the American Federation of Teachers surveyed over 4000 educators for the  Educator Quality of Work Life and found that “61% of the time, educators and school staff find their work often or always stressful,” which is 31%  higher than workers in the general population.

          Vice.com quoted Joshua Brown, associate professor of psychology at Fordham University saying, “There has been a big emphasis on test scores, which puts the teaching emphasis on test prep.” 

          This leaves teachers feeling like they have no control which can lead to them being stressed. Teachers may find it hard to give a student what they need with standardized tests always looming, but they should know what they signed up for.

          I am not trying to undermine the stress teachers are put under. That is not the goal! Teachers and students alike have it hard, but, as an adult who has willingly decided to teach, it is your job to help every single student that needs your help to the best of your ability. Teachers have a choice to be at school. Students do not.

          There should be a better way to deal with it all, all the tension on the brain, especially for someone who is still growing.

          One way to resolve this problem is to give students mental health days.

          In May 2018, the Utah State Legislature passed a law that changed the definition of an “excused absence.” The bill states that missing a day for an illness of the mental variety can now be a valid excuse for a student.

          In July 2019, a law was passed in Oregon that allowed for “five mental health days in a three-month period.”

         This allows students to take a break. If a student is feeling overwhelmed and constantly wrestling with the pressure of school, they could take some time off and return to school  revived and calmed. Students who feel like they can’t handle all the pressure and stress won’t have to if they’re allowed to just take a day off and get away from it all. 

          This could also benefit faculty and school staff as well. If they were also given more days off to mentally rewind, the environment of a school would be a much better place. Students and school staff can grow together, learn how to spread their wings and fly.

          Together.

 

Creative Commons/by naraekim0801
School stress can leave students feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Allowing mental health days as excused absences could help.