Awareness vs. action: The irony of Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. In light of this, the WHS administration has promoted awareness of mental health with announcements and flyers. Further, in each grade’s Google Classrooms, counselors posted videos about the challenges that celebrities have faced and other resources for students to turn to if they need help.

This is not enough. According to the National Survey on Health and Drug Use in 2016, 12.8 percent of teens experienced a major depressive episode, with nine percent experiencing severe impairment from their depression. 

The pandemic has only heightened this crisis as teens have been exposed to a new set of stressors. According to a study by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, new stressors include concerns for health, difficulty with concentration and social isolation.

A survey conducted in 2018 showed that 61 percent of teens say they personally feel a lot of pressure to get good grades, but it seems that some educators do not understand this. While it is not uncommon for workload to increase at the end of the school year, it has been particularly hard to balance with COVID-19. We understand that teachers are required to follow a relatively fast-paced curriculum and give cumulative exams, but it seems ironic that while the school claims to care about Mental Health Month, only a few take action regarding these concerns.

Especially in Mental Health Month, a whole load of stressors has ironically been added to our plates. Usually, lengthy projects and hours of studying are isolated occasions throughout the school year. However, in May, testing and final projects are piled on, going against the well-intentioned purpose of this month. 

For example, three-hour exams like the AP tests from May 18-28, SAT testing on June 5 and ACT testing on June 12 are right around the corner for many students. Further, upperclassmen are working tirelessly trying to finish their Junior Research Papers and Senior Projects which for many, are due in upcoming weeks.

We as students tend to overschedule with clubs, sports and everything else. While it is true that these activities are partially for enjoyment, the college process is notorious for being highly selective and acceptance rates are constantly decreasing. 

The pressure to accumulate an impressive resume of extracurriculars adds stress and competitiveness to otherwise harmless and enjoyable activities. Further, while parents just want the best for us, it feels like we have to achieve certain grades, college acceptances and achievements to not let them down. We want to prioritize our mental health, but the system is constantly working against us.

As students, we need to work together to help each other. We need to take advantage of the resources that are available and create more of them. We need to support the mental health clubs at the school and identify where we can pressure the system to change. There has to be an understanding among the student body of what does not work and we should work with the administration to resolve these issues.

This is why Mental Health Month is so important. It is a great chance for the administration to listen to the students and make positive changes for a better learning environment. The system is against us but we, as students, cannot let it crush us. We ask that you, parents, teachers, school administrators, the WHS community and the education system as a whole hear our cries for help. We need action.