Mental Health Matters


I’m a sixteen-year-old girl juggling school, work, school clubs, and all of my other extracurricular activities. That may not seem like a lot to some, but when you write it all out and begin to do it, a normal 12 hour day turns into an 18 hour day. 

I wake up at 6 AM in the morning after falling asleep at 2 AM to finish my assignments from the eight-hour school day. School is already seen as a tiring feat for many high school students, but when we are expected to balance out our home life and our school work all in the span of a day, we become drained of all energy and lose focus on the things that are seen as important. 

With all of the preoccupations in a teenager’s life, we hardly have time to stop and think about our mental health. When people don’t think about their mental health, it can often result in spiraling.

I ran a poll on Instagram, questioning people about their experiences with mental health days and/or medical days. One of the questions asked was, “Has there been a time you took a mental health day and it was counted against you in school?” With over 850 views, 253 voters answered yes. Yes, over 200 students have taken a day out of the 180 required school days to take a break for themselves. I asked people to tell me about their mental health and to share their reasoning for being absent. Those that were comfortable talking about their health shared a few piteous stories. 

“My grades dropped because of a suicide attempt,” an anonymous junior at East Central High school said. “The school found out about me cutting and I was sent home. I took the next day off and both of those days counted against me. I have taken at LEAST four mental health days a year because that’s all that I can afford, but they are still unexcused. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I am still treated as if I just skip school for fun.”

The said student is one of the 39 people who responded with their stories. Each story was more heartbreaking than the next, and it continued until I came to the realization that our district, and many other districts, don’t care about students’ mental health. 

Teachers often say that they don’t want to hear excuses, but mental health should be an excuse. It is a serious and sensitive subject that can kill over 120 people a day. For people aged 12-18, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.

 A study orchestrated by Benjamin Hansen, a University of Oregon economist, found that suicide rates are often seasonal. Hansen kept track of suicide rates from 1980 to 2004. He found that during the summer, suicide rates remain low, whereas when school is in session, suicide rates increase dramatically. Hansen calculated a 23% decline in suicide attempts during the summer. In 2017, Dr. Greggory Plemmons, a Vanderbilt Pediatrician, collected admissions from 32 different children’s hospitals. Plemmons data, tracked by serious self-harm and suicide attempts, found that July is the lowest month for suicidal thoughts and/or ideation. Both Hansen and Plemmons collected data to show suicide rates steadily increase during the school year. 

There is no “suck it up, buttercup” when an adolescent’s life is at stake. 

Hansen also found that students in today’s generation spend seven hours more at school per week than students did one generation ago.

 Being a teenager is hard, and often is harder when we feel that we don’t have an outlet to release at least one of our many stressors. 

An anonymous student feels that the Edmond district cares more about students’ performance than they do about the health of their students. 

“I told the counselor that I was suicidal, depressed and that I was giving it my all when I felt like I had nothing to give. The counselor said that I should have been more focused in class and that I was probably just over-reacting. It’s upsetting that the school cares more about education and grades than the health of its students. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is higher during the school year,” the anonymous student said. 

When students are expected to constantly work without breaks, especially with the pressures of being a student, trying to fit in, and giving themselves time for self-care/rest, then going home only to do chores AND more school work, it puts a huge amount of responsibility on someone who is just learning how to be responsible for themselves and their actions.

If you are ever feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts, and feel that you have no one to talk to or reach out to, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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