Terrier Times

Mental Health

Illustration+by+Ingrim+Yard
Illustration by Ingrim Yard

Illustration by Ingrim Yard

Illustration by Ingrim Yard

Mikayla Kudron, Reporter

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Illustration by Ingrim Yard

Mental health is a sensitive subject. Chances are you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness,  but talking about it still seems taboo. According to NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 either suffer from a mental illness or will at some point in their lives. So why, in a society where mental illnesses are so common, do people continue to dance around the topic? Psychology Today once compared the level of anxiety of the average modern high school student to that of a psychiatric patient in the 1950’s. Not everything is quite so black and white- an increase in awareness can come hand in hand with a decline in mental health.

Mrs. Quigley, the West Springfield High School adjustment counselor for grades 9 and 12, believes there has been an increase in awareness when it comes to mental illness, but there’s still work to be done. There are many students with unidentified mental illnesses, so they aren’t getting the help they need. Mrs. Quigley feels that it is time for us to recognize that mental health is essential to everyone’s physical health and wellbeing. “Mental health should not be a stigma word,” said Mrs. Quigley, as everyone has mental health and needs to be aware of what they might need regarding it. So what could we do to help remove the negative connotation from mental health?

“The use of mental health terms out of context can be offensive without ill intent,” Mrs. Quigley offered.  Most of the people who use these terms inappropriately don’t even realize they’re doing it. One of the most common examples of this is calling a moody friend bipolar, which can be seen as dismissing the severity of Bipolar Disorder. Talking about being depressed after a bad day, or complaining of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when a tile pattern is offset by one have the same effect. Hearing this kind of conversation could be confusing or hurtful for those suffering with that illness.

One major difference in kids lives between the 1950’s and now is what is expected of them both academically and socially. On one hand, the competition between students to have the highest GPA and impress colleges is fierce, but media plays a big part as well.  Many kids and adults alike compare themselves to others on social sites such as Instagram and Facebook. The availability of cell phones can cause anxiety centered around knowing everything that’s going on in you friend group, town, state, or nation. When it comes to television, many shows and movies promote an idealistic view of high school and present the expectation that every kid needs to hit certain milestones during those four years. Due to this, a lot of kids enter high school thinking they’re going to have the best four years of their lives, and after they hit a rough patch, they think there’s something wrong with them. Mrs Quigley expressed the importance of self image and kids realizing they shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. “Students are never alone,” she said, even if those around them put on a confident face they could still be struggling. She also feels “early intervention” is key; even if someone is uncomfortable seeking help, it’s never the wrong answer.

In a perfect world, mental illness would not exist. Dealing with anxiety, Depression, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, and the countless other mental illnesses in existence is certainly not a walk in the park. Hopefully, though, with awareness and trust, anyone suffering from a mental illness can get the help they need to cope. “It’s never a bad idea to speak to someone,” said Mrs. Quigley, “If I know, I can help.” West Springfield High School is full of help for anyone open to it. Just this year, 28 kids got help from the 9th grade Signs of Suicide (SOS) program. Programs such as the SOS program lead to destigmatizing mental health and looking past the label of diagnosis. It also promotes education, prevention, and intervention. The program emphasized ACT, which stands for Acknowledge, Care, and Tell. The SOS program educates students on the signs of suicide among themselves or their friends while also supplying suggestions to seek help.

At WSHS, students can seek assistance through guidance and adjustment counselor, the drug and alcohol counselor, Rick’s Place grief counseling, or receive on site therapy with the Behavioral Health Network and the Reconnecting Youth program. Outside of school, anyone can contact the suicide hotline at 1800-273-TALK (8255) and the Local Crisis Center at 733-6661. The most crucial thing is to seek help. In school counseling and hotlines are especially helpful for those who don’t want their parents to know what they’re going through just yet. Whatever you need, it can be provided. As Mrs. Quigley said, “We can problem solve anything,” as long as you speak up.

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