Are students as mentally healthy as they think?
March 23, 2021
There has been a lot of talk about mental health — especially this year.
What is mental health? There are many different definitions, whether they are personal or clinical.
The Merriam- Webster dictionary definition of mental health is “the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life.”
Mental health encompasses many things including emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It reflects how well a person can identify how they are feeling and recognize certain behaviors.
While many people focus on their physical health daily, studies show that few pay close enough attention to their mental health.\
“Besides social work being my chosen career, mental health is something I think about daily,” said Ms. Erin Ward, who is the LSW-Direct Service Supervisor at Women’s Resources of Monroe County. “I consider my own mental health, that of my family, friends, and the world around me. It’s not just about being “happy” or “sad”. Just as we consider our physical health, we should also be mindful of our mental health.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), different types of mental illness are the most common health conditions in the US. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder within their lifetime.
Everyone is familiar with widely talked about mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, but, there are over 200 classified forms of mental illness. In fact, 1 in 5 United States residents will deal with a mental illness within any year.
Throughout the course of a year, everyone has mental highs and lows. Many different factors play into a person’s mental health. Seasons, weather, activities going on, and changes in someone’s home life can cause mental health fluctuation.
“Without school and all my extracurriculars to stress about, I’m much happier and less stressed than I am during school,” said junior Emilia Halas. “I also have more time to do things that I enjoy such as playing piano and playing video games which really help to relieve stress.”
SHS administration and staff have been making a strong effort this school year to check in on the student body’s mental health. The guidance office has created a Google Classroom specifically for helping students learn techniques to reduce stress and practice beneficial mindfulness activities.
“Mental health definitely impacts physical health,” said Ward. “The brain sends signals to the body. The body and mind are regulated by hormones. With mental illness, these hormones and signals are out of balance. Therefore, we see physical symptoms such as muscle pain or heart palpitations as symptoms. On the other hand, when the body encounters stressful stimuli like trauma, the number of hormones will increase or decrease, impacting the brain leading to anxiety or depression. There is a cycle of the mind-body connection.”
While people commonly discuss mental health today, that has not always been the case. For many years there has been a negative connotation associated with the discussion of mental health. In more recent years, people have been increasingly spreading awareness of the mental illness. The idea of facing it and finding ways to cope with it has become much more accepted.
A simple search can help people find ways to work on improving their mental health. The web is full of tips and positive outlets for negativity.
One possible option to help improve mental health is journaling. Writing down and tracking positive events throughout the day can show and remind people of good things that happen throughout their day. There is even the option of a prompted journal. Prompted journals can ask questions or give prompts to write about.
Much like journaling, there are a couple of different smartphone apps that help people record how they are feeling throughout the day. There are other apps for meditation and breathing exercises too. Meditation can be done anywhere at any time. It helps center a person’s thoughts and feelings bringing a calming sensation if done correctly. For those who do not know how to properly meditate on their own, there are guided videos and workshops anyone can sign up for online.
Along with meditation, there are many breathing exercises and guided breathing that can be used. Similar to meditation breathing exercises help bring back a level of calm in an upsetting or stressful situation. Students can use breathing exercises when they are nervous before a presentation or test.
While there are many things people can do on their own it is important to seek help from peers, teachers, parents, or other trusted adults when necessary.
Linked below is a Google Doc of resource provided by the SHS guidance office for community and mental health issues: