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Mental health among teenagers has always been a tremendous issue, but it is even more prevalent now due to COVID-19. Students who are now having to deal with the aftereffects of quarantine are also having to deal with current changes in their school lives due to the pandemic. These changes are causing an increase in mental health issues among students, and it is crucial that they are able to get assistance. There is a serious lack in support systems for students with mental health problems, and students should have easy access to the help that they need for free.
Last year, I lost a dear friend of mine to suicide. His mental illness seemed to swallow him whole and it got to the point that he couldn’t take it anymore. You could always tell by the way he held himself, slouched shoulders and clouded eyes, that there was something haunting him. Whenever that look upon his face hit me, I would always try to write him little notes to cheer him up. At first, he seemed happy when I did that, but that sense of false hope quickly faded and would be dissolved within a day. From there, he started to confide his fears and issues to me. We would text back and forth, and I would try to give him my advice to the best of my ability. But I always had to remind him that I was not a professional. As graduation grew near, he would worry about what his future would look like.
It got to the point where my advice wasn’t reaching him, and it felt as though I wasn’t helping him, so I started to suggest that he should go to a therapist, so he can get professional help. He would always respond with, “no I can’t do that, my parents don’t believe that mental illness exists.” So, I suggested that he try to go on his own since he was eighteen at the time. Unfortunately, though, therapy is outrageously costly, and he was unable to get access to it.
It got to the point where a friend and I told an adult at the school what was happening. The adult said they would talk to the school counselor to see what help they could get him, but it was too late. He ended up getting too overwhelmed with everything that was happening and was unable to get the help that he needed. He died January 23rd, 2020.
I was angry. I was infuriated with the lack of help that he received. Even with me and another one of his friends telling trusted adults our concerns of his state before he died, he still never got access to the help that he needed. I always wonder that if he had access to support and was able to get help to treat his mental health, would things turn out differently?
After his death, I was called into the guidance counselor’s office because they wanted to check to see how I was dealing with the situation.. When talking with the guidance counselor, it just felt completely awkward and uncomfortable. While I know her intentions were good, I could never see the guidance counselor as someone who could help me with my emotional state, I only saw her as the person who helps me with my class schedule. Though she did listen to my distressed state, I never felt like I got the proper advice I needed to hear to help to cope with his death. The school also brought in counselors from other locations to help the students for one day after he died. While the faculty encouraged all the students that were close to him to go talk to the counselors about the situation.. I was angry because they were only going to be there to help us for one day, and then leave us to fend for ourselves. And I was especially angry at the fact that they didn’t bring in these counselors to help my friend when he was still alive, they were only there for us grieving students after an incident happened.
Mental health has always been a big problem among teenagers, but it seems like it has taken a turn for the worse since COVID-19 hit the world. In fact, over the past year and a half, there have been three suicides that have occurred in my school district alone. COVID-19 had a frightening effect on teenagers’ mental health. Due to the stress of the isolation and the thought of their school years being taken from them, there have been higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress among teenagers.
Even after quarantine ended, the effects that it had on people still remained. Now with schools started back up again, students now have to deal with the stresses that school brings. It is becoming an increasingly difficult task to do when students not only have to deal with school, but also the effects of COVID-19, and having their mental state being unstable. Many students feel like they have no one to turn to for help with these issues.
All of these problems that students seem to be having have one common solution, and that is getting access to help. One of the main issues with my friend’s situation, is that he never had access to a therapist or a counselor. Since mental health is an even bigger issue now this year, schools should make an effort to provide students access to therapists when they need it. At the very least, there should be one therapist for the students on campus at all times, but ideally there would be multiple professionals for the whole student body. Having multiple counselors on campus allows for those counselors to focus their attention on a group of students, instead of having to split their attention to the entire school. This may also give the students options to choose someone who they feel comfortable talking with.
Even though a large number of the students already have a trusted adult they can talk to, that trusted adult may not have been trained for giving people the necessary advice. It is crucial to have help from the counselor to understand where an issue is coming from and how to fix it. Knowing and working on fixing the problem properly can boost students’ performances at school.
Mental health among students has grown increasingly out of control. Providing students with the proper help that they need, in a safe environment and with people they have a close, trusting relationship with is the best way to fight this issue. Now with COVID-19, students are at even more risk for their mental state and their motivation in school to spiral out of control. It is important now more than ever to provide these students with support. Instead of waiting for another death to occur, something must be done now. I will always mourn my friend’s death and use it to try to change these horrific patterns that are occurring.