• Lauren Brensel

Mind Over Matter

It is final exam week and you have hours of studying ahead of you. You have not slept in what has felt like days and your bed is looking so good right now. You snap yourself out of it, thinking that you cannot waste any time napping. You continue, focusing your tired eyes on the textbook in front of you. That was a good decision, right?


In the 21st century edition of high school, it can be hard to catch a break. You probably take seven classes and spend your time in tons of clubs, volunteering, sports practice, and bus rides, before you finally get home just in time to start your homework, take a shower, eat dinner and go to bed so you can do it all again the next day. Judging by the fact that you are reading this magazine, you most likely have a general direction for your career choice, and if you are in high school, you are probably willing to do anything it takes to get there. I get it. In the meantime, though, it can be easy and simultaneously harmful for you to forget about your health along the way. While the school system somewhat covers your physical health, providing time for lunch and bathroom breaks, the mental health of today’s students has, for years, gone unnoticed (1).


Making time for a healthy mind during the school year is more important than ever before. Youths have to battle their daily assignments while the implications of a pandemic fill their thoughts. Prior to online learning, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services reported that “one in five children and adolescents experience a mental health problem during their school years" (2). Solving such a pressing issue as a child’s mental health is not easy during a global pandemic. In fact, the Coronavirus just might bring us a few steps backward in the process.


Only a little over 20 countries are allowing schools and universities to welcome back their students in the upcoming school year (3). While a virtual learning experience may be the only option for some areas, mental health problems will persist for several students. Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, Vice Chief of the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters’ mental health program explains that “community crises, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and mass shootings, have shown us the long-lasting impact of such events on some children’s mental health, along with their emotional and behavioral development" (4). Luckily, Gleason has assured us that today’s youth will not have any developmental problems because of the pandemic. However, she warns that students who have predisposed mental health issues might face even more difficulties because of online learning, where there is little to no interaction between peers. She encourages parents and educators to have open conversations with their children during these infamous unprecedented times.


Unfortunately, students who are returning to school won’t be immune to suffering mental health either. The average adolescent has an unreasonable amount of pressure, causing a build-up of unnecessary stress, which eventually progresses into fatigue (5). It can be really difficult to be successful on any assignment when your mind is foggy and if nothing else, tired.


For the non-average student who faces mental health issues like anxiety or depression, the mere act of going to school can add to the daily pressures that weigh down their mind. In a study conducted by the New York University, researchers depict that “22.5% of students stated that anxiety hurt them academically” and “59% of students at NYU claimed that the symptoms of depression made it challenging to do schoolwork, get along with people, or be responsible at home" (5). Despite these scary statistics, there is some hope left.


K-12 schools and higher education institutions are taking a variety of steps to bolster student mental health, ranging from prevention, to treatment, to crisis support" (6) SJF Ventures’ Principal Stephanie Nieman explains that the way to do this is through technology. Shockingly enough, technology is a significant aid in the betterment of students’ mental well-being. There are several free or low-cost, downloadable apps that deal with mental health, allowing teens to access treatment at all times and on the go (7). Of course, nothing could really replace in-person therapy, but these apps will surely act as an extra dose of self-care.


While we have a long way to go on our goal towards healthy-minded students, progress has been made, and that is something to celebrate. The objective behind writing this article was to identify areas of improvement in our education system. While it can be infuriating to think that our school boards have let so many students fall through the cracks, we must be both optimistic and supportive for all of the ones who are still struggling.


So, it turns out that all that time spent studying and staying up past your bedtime, or for many students, pulling an all-nighter, was for nothing. I should make it very clear that neither myself nor any of the contributors at STEM10 advise you to skip the studying session. However, we do recommend that you plan ahead so you won’t feel obligated to stay up late, slaving over textbooks and flashcards. Besides, not getting any sleep is not a “flex”, so go ahead and hit the hay.


References

1. Team, P. (2020, February 16). Is mental health neglected in our children's schools? Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://blog.providence.org/archive/is-mental-health-neglected-in-our-children-s-schools


2. School-Based Mental Health Services. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/mental-health/school-psychology-and-mental-health/school-based-mental-health-services


3. Burke, L. (n.d.). More Than 20 Countries Are Reopening Schools. The U.S. Should Take Note. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.heritage.org/education/commentary/more-20-countries-are-reopening-schools-the-us-should-take-note


4. COVID-19: Reducing Long-Term Impact on Children's Mental Health: CHKD Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.chkd.org/Blog/Coronavirus-Pandemic--How-Can-We-Reduce-Long-Term-Impact-on-Children-s-Mental-Health-/


5. OS, S. (2017, August 23). Prioritizing Mental Health And Better Grades: Mental Health Can Help. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://gatewaycounseling.com/prioritzing-mental-health/


6. Technology innovations tackling the youth, young adult mental health crisis. (2020, July 15). Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/technology-innovations-tackling-youth-young-adult-mental-health-crisis


7. Truschel, J. (2020, August 13). Top 25 Mental Health Apps for 2020: An Alternative to Therapy? Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://www.psycom.net/25-best-mental-health-apps

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