posted on January 07, 2015 13:07
In the last four years of our basic education, we’re forced to look at what will happen once we graduate from high school, and we’re told to prepare ourselves for those changes. Adults call it “growing up” and the stress that it causes to students is rarely ever given a second thought. But recent studies show that these typical stresses might be doing a lot more damage than parents, teachers, and even the students themselves actually realize.
In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 8% of today’s U.S. teens – aged 13 to 18 years old - have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, with symptoms usually showing up around 6 years old. Sure enough, school counselors report seeing more and more students coming in with mental health disorders each year, the number of which has been steadily increasing since at least the 1950s.
School counselors think that it’s increased amounts of stress and pressure on students, in addition to what is described as “normal” teenage issues like fighting with parents, friends, and significant others.
While the high school students of the 1950s might have only had to stress about “normal” teenage issues – which are huge challenges just by themselves – there’s a lot more stress pressing in on today’s high school students. Specifically, doing all of the “right” things and getting the “right” grades to impress the “right” colleges according to Dr. Sharon Sevier, chair of the board of The American School Counselor Association. And as colleges and universities increase in price and selectivity each year, so does the pressure on high school students to do those “right” things.
In order to do those “right” things, students are asking themselves some tough questions. Do they want to go to college? What do they want to go to college for? What college would they like to go to? What scholarships will they need? All of these questions – and more – are things that high school students are pressured to figure out in four years or less.
And it’s obviously taking its toll on the students. Cindy Zellefrow - a nurse at South-Western City Schools in Grove City, Ohio - says that during the 2013-2014 school year, she treated twelve students whose anxiety was causing suicidal thoughts.
So what’s the solution to this ever-growing problem?
The most important thing is to let each and every student know that there is support available for them. Many students don’t bring up the stress and anxieties they might be going through, thinking that there’s not anything that can help or that they won’t be taken seriously. Having teachers and parents learn about these issues lets them know how to react and handle the situation when a student comes to them for help, as well as recognize the symptoms when the student doesn't have the courage to reach out. And just the knowledge someone is there to help can make all the difference in the world to these stressing students.
When Anxiety Hits at School
Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents (Fact Sheet)
Written by: Anna Fair, 12th grade student