Mental Health and how it Affects our School Community

1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness, I wanted to find out how it affected my peers and the people around me. I asked people to fill out an anonymous survey about their experiences with mental disorders. I want to thank the students who voluntarily took my survey, your feedback and comments were a huge help. I want to be clear, I am not downplaying anyone’s experiences and I am definitely not trying to say that if anyone has experiences that differ from the definition I give, that they don’t have a mental disorder, everyone’s experiences are different and no one fits the textbook definition of mental disorders. The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the people who might not experience the same struggles and to try to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health and mental disorders.

Anxiety, according to the American Psychiatric Association is defined as the anticipation of a future concern. It is often associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior. A lot of people said that their experiences with anxiety as terrifying and scary.  A lot of responses mentioned symptoms of panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling exhausted. Anxiety can manifest in many different forms, and there are many different types of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder are all off-sets of anxiety.

Stress is a different thing. Merriam-Webster defines stress as a constraining force or influence: such as a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part, the deformation caused in a body by such a force, a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation, a state resulting from a stress, especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.  Stress can be managed, and if it goes unchecked it can lead to more severe mental disorders.

Stress and anxiety have very similar symptoms, rapid heartbeat, rapid breath, and muscle tension.  Stress is a response to a given situation, such as a deadline or a test. Anxiety is often triggered by stress, however after the situation is passed people still usually experience the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can make everyday tasks significantly more difficult. Anxiety and stress can be cause by very similar situations, the main difference I was able to come across was the duration and the fact that anxiety can often be linked with panic attacks. Panic attacks can consist of chills, headaches, hot flashes, and chest pains.  

The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a common and serious mental illness that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. It causes feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest. Depression is treatable though, through therapy and medication. Grief and sadness feel similar to depression. Depression often comes with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing as well as the normal feelings of grief and sadness.  Depression is also usually over a long period of time. Depression and grief are very similar it is just a matter of intensity, duration, and feeling.

So what can you do if you don’t suffer from these mental disorders? If you know someone who does experience any of these as well as other mental disorders such as eating disorders, support them and remind them that they aren’t alone. Talk about it, spread awareness and try to reduce the negativity surrounding mental health. Care for your friends and be patient with them, mental disorders don’t just go away overnight, it takes time and a lot of hard work. Don’t force anything on a person with a mental disorder and especially don’t tell them that it is their fault or that they aren’t trying to get rid of it. Pay attention to your friends and make sure you’re there for them, they may say they don’t want to talk about it but simply just being there for them can do a lot.

So what can the school do? The school as a whole can be more accepting. Set up a support system and understand what students are going through. Teachers could be more aware about what might be going on with a student who may keep to themself or seem uninterested. Teachers shouldn’t stress grades as much as they do. Even just having discussions about mental health in class and not having mental health be a taboo topic.

This article is not meant to target anyone, or any group of people. If you are going through something that you think is depression or anxiety and it doesn’t exactly fit the definition I gave in this article that doesn’t mean that it isn’t depression or anxiety. No definition can perfectly fit every case, everyone’s feelings are valid and your feelings matter. Thank you again to anyone who filled out my survey, I really appreciate your help on this article that took me so long to write. I am not trying to call out any group of people I just wanted to write this article to bring awareness to how mental illness affects our community.

Sources:

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ask-us/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-stress

https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-anxiety-difference_n_4833172

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stress

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

Resources:

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-657-HOPE

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