Mental Health in Education

Given some recent events in my life, the topic of mental health has been unavoidable. My entire life I have suffered from mental illness and have learned to “deal with” it as many teachers and peers would put it. The worst part is, I’m not alone. Mental Illness in students is a growing phenomenon that is going untreated. This article from NPR perfectly describes it as “a silent epidemic.”

We all know the stigma behind mental illness. Because you can’t physically see it, and because it doesn’t always require medical attention, it is often shrugged off and not taken seriously. Oh how I know this too well. I  can vividly remember days where I lied to my employer stating I had the flu or a stomach virus and couldn’t come in to work that day because I knew saying I was depressed or I was having an panic attack wouldn’t work the same. I knew if I went up to my high school teacher and asked for an extension on an assignment, telling her I was physically ill would get a much different response than telling her my anxiety was through the roof. Unfortunately, this stigma has followed me to college as my mental illness only got worse.

The stigma behind mental illness is the very reason why students fall behind, do poorly in school, and drop out. Parents and teachers are not trained or even willing to notice the signs of mental illness and accommodate for students in the same way they would if a student had the flu, or was out because the broke their leg.

In the last 2 weeks I have had several days I didn’t want to get out of bed, 3 panic attacks (that I can remember), strep throat, and a phone call from my mother telling me my grandmother’s cancer had put her back in the hospital. This doesn’t even begin to cover the multitude of papers, exams and assignments I had to worry about that I have quite frankly been trained to see as more important. So here’s the thing: I have real life events that lead to my panic attacks, because of my anxiety my weak immune system allows for me to contract strep throat (again) that takes the rest of any energy I had left, which affects my performance in school. This then causes be to fall behind which brings more anxiety and therefore accelerating this cycle. Now look around, hundreds of students around you experience this all the time and yet they don’t get the help they need.

I’m not writing this for anyone to feel sorry for me. Because trust me I have heard “suck it up” “get over it” and “just be happy” way too many times to care what other people think. I’m writing this to open the eyes of teachers, parents, and students. Our school system could make such a difference if more resources and time would go into mental health. We could unlock so much potential, we could decrease drop out rates (and decrease the amount of times I have considered dropping out), and most importantly we could decrease suicide rates in college aged students.

I know this post isn’t exactly an education policy post, but this is real life and this is happening all around us. College students don’t walk around like robots with no emotion who only have time for assignments. We are humans living our lives outside the classroom and we experience real world problems that are so much more important than turning something in on time. It’s time we all acknowledge that.

 

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3 Responses to Mental Health in Education

  1. Autumn Grace says:

    First of all, I want to say thank you for having the courage to speak up about your mental illness, despite the unfortunate stigma that still surrounds it. I myself suffer from anxiety, and I have witnessed depression and schizophrenia through my older brother, who took his life a little over a year ago. Like you, I understand that it seems that many people do not understand that mental illness is REAL and it cannot just be fixed magically. And also like you, I do not speak about it for sympathy, but just so people understand that they are NOT ALONE.

    Like you said, I actually caught myself telling my boss just a couple weeks ago that I was “physically ill” when in reality I was suffering from a panic attack and couldn’t make it out of my room, because I felt that he wouldn’t understand if I told him what was really going on.

    I think it is important for everyone who suffers from any sort of mental illness to stop being ashamed of it and open up so we can start reducing this stigma around it. You said you didn’t think this was really a school-related post, however, I feel that it definitely is. Mental illness is a part of your every day life, school or home, and it is something that teachers and faculty will have to start helping students cope with in order for them to be successful in the classroom and not let their illness overcome them.

    I appreciate you opening up, and I hope more people will be brave like you, and realize that IT IS OKAY to have a mental illness, and IT IS OKAY to talk about it. We, as a society, all must work towards recognizing it and coping with mental illness, in order to help others cope with their daily struggles.

    I know you will help many with this post, as you helped me, and I hope everyone suffering from mental illness will learn that they are not alone, and there is always help out there. (Also, I am really sorry about your grandmother.)

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • august0628 says:

      I can’t thank you enough for this comment. Thank you for having the courage to stand up for this issue and continue to raise awareness. This was amazing, and if more people had this mind set then the world would be that much better for those who suffer from mental illness. Or honestly just better in general.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. haydenvick says:

    August,

    You are a courageous soul who will no doubt use your experiences with mental illness to positively impact the lives of others. Thank you for sharing your struggles with something that deserves much more attention. I also think it’s important that all teachers are further trained on mental illness so they can better interact with students and encourage parents of their students to do the same. Mental diseases do halt potential, as you mentioned, and I have certainly experienced my fair share of depressed days/weeks/months. Thanks again for having the bravery to share your personal story!
    -H

    Liked by 1 person

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