Students and teachers arrive at school every day expected to act a certain way, make good grades and put on a smiling face. Twenty-three Elkin High School students took a survey asking about depression and anxiety due to school.
The results were startling. One-third of the students wrote that they have never experienced depression or anxiety, while two-thirds of the students said they have. Furthermore, every student in the class, except for one, said that they know someone who has or had depression and/or anxiety.
Many students believe that the high rates of depression and anxiety are because of stress about classwork/homework, being bullied, or true mental diseases (like social anxiety.) When asked why they have or had anxiety and/or depression, senior Mary Wright stepped forward and said, “Yes, I have PTSD. It got worse when I got to high school and started to fail a class.”
Another student said, “Yes, I get extremely nervous around people, and I’ve been bullied my whole life.” Students kept referring to stress and social life as roots of the problem.
When asked how they dealt with depression or anxiety, half of the students taking the survey said that they have recovered or are recovering due to help and support from other people. They were able to talk to someone about their problem and were helped; but what about the other students who don’t have anyone to turn to?
Two out of seven students said that they don’t have anyone to turn to. For most people, talking to someone helps with their problems, but even that simple solution often remains out of reach. An 11th-grade student explained that it is not a complex solution. “Include everyone and treat them fairly.”
The students also were asked if they helped someone who reached out for help, and 19 out of 20 said that they tried to talk to them and let them know that they were there for them. One student said that they just felt bad and did nothing to help them.
We also asked students if they thought that anxiety and depression are prevalent in schools and why. Every student said yes, that it is, and many had comments to make about it.
Senior Caroline Cason said, “Yes, [she had experienced some sadness] because of the stressful environment.” Another senior said, “Yes, there is so much stress in school and so many students who feel like they’re not good enough,” and an 11th-grade student said, “Yes, because every day students are bullied or left out.”
Teachers also realize mental health is an important issue to address in teen life. An Elkin High School teacher who asked to not be named said she believes that students are affected by depression and anxiety at a young age because of society, and the fact that they have the “world at their fingertips because of phones. Students who are bullied cannot get away from it even at home because of social media.” This teacher went on to further explain, “Students also talk to the wrong people about their problems.”
The teacher also had experienced depression and anxiety herself. As a child she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. This led to depression and feeling as if others judged her all the time. Growing up she worked hard to overcome her problems, and she succeeded.
She went to a general practitioner and took medications. She tried to overcome it by herself, but that didn’t work. She realized that she needed additional help, so she went to a therapist and was put on different medications. She also learned tricks and coping techniques to help her with her anxiety.
She believes that because of her struggle with anxiety and depression it helps her be a better teacher. She has a connection with the students and knows what they’re going through. Her method of helping students is different than other people’s; she doesn’t call them out and try to be too overbearing. She does simple spot checks and tries to be kind to her students.
Clearly, even when someone has severe depression or anxiety, he or she could be helped if only the right people could be found. It is important to be the kind of person who helps instead of hurts.
Leah Shaw, Ava Bledsoe, Laura Couch, and Chandler Beals are members of the Honors English I class at Elkin High School.