Editorial: Mental Health in GCPS Needs More Attention

Kelsie Henderson, Sectional Director

Mental health struggles among students and teachers have been on the rise throughout the last decade and is a serious issue. In 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds, accoring to America’s Health Rankings.
For many students, they feel as though their mental health is completely ignored. With the teen suicide rate rapidly increasing each year, and school continuously avoids the topic of mental health in general. “Aside from touching on it very briefly in advisory, mental health has been almost completely overlooked and hasn’t been addressed in an appropriate fashion yet,” explains sophomore William Esplin. Some advisory teachers did not even go over the topic of mental health as they were instructed to.
For students struggling with their own mental health, it makes them feel as though they have nowhere to go, and school doesn’t care that they are struggling. For many, a common fear is that they will be misheard and not understood. Feeling this way while in a mindset where you are feeling stuck and unheard will only worsen your motivation and struggles, and is one of the main causes of teen suicides.
I asked teens if they thought they would have to go above and beyond for mental help at school, and the answers were shocking. “Personally, I think they do care, but people aren’t willing to get help due to the stigma around mental health. I have struggled mentally and know that I would never turn to the school for help, but they do care and have resources available to help people who need it. People just have to be an advocate for themselves and willing to seek guidance when needed,” says a Gloucester sophomore.
If mental health is brought up, it is directed to students and almost never directed to staff. “While students are of course important, there should definitely be more focus on mental health in general, not just for children. A lot of the teachers and staff are suffering as well. Many are going through the same struggles and pressures as the students,” explains a Gloucester high school teacher.
Teachers are expected to be role models for their students and if they show anything less, they are ridiculed. Teachers are supposed to be professional, even after their school hours, resulting in many teachers living up to an hour away. When teachers are struggling with mental health, they are expected to come to school with their students and act fine for them, even when students come to them with their issues and problems. Many students forget teachers are also people and not just their mentors.
Mental health struggles don’t just start with suicidal thoughts. Mental health issues can range anywhere from anxiety to depression, and disorders like bipolar disorder. These factors make it seem like schools only care about mental health when a student commits suicide. “I don’t think the high school cares about our mental health. It is not spoken about unless we are discussing traumatic events, such as suicide. I think the high school should put more of an effort into discussing mental health and the importance of maintaining it,” says a Gloucester junior. Students should learn about how to cope with their mental state, and that they are supported if they need help.
Should schools try to involve mental health more into lessons and training, or are they doing fine where they are at now?