By SARAH VERRASTRO
Mental health issues in high school students on the whole has increased drastically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Negative emotions leading to stress, loneliness, and anxiety were common in the isolation with the lack of a real school environment. Now, many students have entered the new school year with some variant of a mental health issue, including students at Masuk High School. Therapists and psychiatrists around the world are swamped with the amount of people coming forward for counseling and help, including Masuk’s own guidance counselors and social worker.
In the wake of the pandemic and the return to full in-person school, the ability to help out the many students has become easier for these professionals. However, they have noticed that there is a major increase in anxiety here at Masuk, especially with the beginning of the school year. Reattaching to school life has been a rough adjustment for many, having lost a year of the practice in isolation, mainly in a social and peer relationship aspect.
This is a common issue around the world. Reports from high schools around the world have provided larger than normal numbers of students experiencing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. The American Psychological Association reported 81 percent of teenage students, ages 13-17, have experienced stress on a higher level than normal. Because of this, it is critical to be vigilant for signs of any issues in school peers. “Anything that seems really out of character– you know your friends and how they operate,” Masuk and Jockey Hollow social worker, Jessica Champagne suggested. For example, extroverted friends acting unusually quiet, or introverted friends acting recklessly. Any trait out of the ordinary is worth talking about if it means helping out a friend.
Once these behaviors have been reported, the student can get the help they need. All Masuk staff are ready and willing to do what they can to make everyone feel supported and safe, whether from their guidance counselor, school social worker, Officer Larson, Principal Swensen, or the assistant principals. “The school counselors often help to brainstorm with students on how to approach their friend, or can even help mediate the conversation to make sure that everyone feels supported and that the worry is coming from a place of concern.” Champagne continued. Another resource for students who do not want to approach a teacher is the Say Something app, where messages of concern can be sent anonymously, and immediate help will be initiated.
As the new school year progresses, it is important to remember that students are all experiencing some level of discomfort together in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore everyone will make it through together.
“For students who are going through mental health struggles, know that you are not alone. The feelings are not forever, even if it feels like you’ve been carrying this burden for as long as you can remember. Be open to support, and that can be from friends, family, teachers, school staff, therapists– and know that you are worthy of their time and concern– even if the voice inside your head is telling you otherwise.” Champagne finished powerfully.