Thoughts on Mental Health from a High Schooler

By: Zaria Taft, Youth Intern

High school can be hard. There’s the pressure of schoolwork, homework, extracurricular activities, home life, social life, etc. There are a lot of parts of a teen's life that people around them do not consider. Ignoring these stressors and their consequences can overwhelm the teen and makes maintaining good mental health - a person’s general psychological well-being - a struggle. 

At the same time, high schoolers believe in saying, “I’m fine,” and not telling people how they truly feel because they have the fear of being looked at as “weird” or “different”, which stems from stigma. A person could be stressed, hurt, exhausted, and on the verge of depression (or already is) but they will not, because of the bad reputation of mental illness, or cannot, because they do not have access to proper mental health services, get help for themselves.

Many studies show that only 1 in every 5 teens with depression get help. This means if 200 students have depression, only 40 students will get help and 160 students are left feeling lost and hopeless.

Most times, students don’t know how to recognize the warning signs or that there is help to make them feel better, whether it be medication, therapy, or just an ear to listen. This needs to change.

I am a rising senior at my high school and found out this year that the school psychologist position was left empty when she was promoted to be the assistant principal. It’s important to get the position filled because having someone available to talk to and get advice, assistance, and resources from can help many students in incredible ways.

I wish I would have known sooner that there was help for me before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I didn't see a psychiatrist until my mother noticed how down I was.

I wish my classmates would have known there was help before they caved in to self-harm.

I wish all students knew there was help. 

To change this, I would like to see schools talk about mental health, not only in psychology classes. I would also like to see the school psychologists actively participating and speaking with students about common mental illness symptoms and resources.

This summer, I am starting to create my own conversations about how important treating mental illnesses is by interning at NAMI Dane County. At their office, I get to engage in conversations about what treatments exists, how youth voices can get involved, and how to empower individuals to become their own advocates.

I hope that my internship with NAMI Dane County is just the start of the kind of change I want to see in our country because what I want, and what other students want as well, is to cut ignorance out and replace it with education, help, and better mental health.