Understanding teen mental health


Keri Carroll

Teenagers are under a great deal of stress every day.


While the topic of mental health disorders continues to hold a negative stigma in our country, they are actually a lot more common than most people might think. From small children to elders, any age group can suffer from mental health disorders and they should be treated at the same seriousness as any kind of illness.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines behavioral health as, “mental/emotional well being and/or actions that affect wellness.”  Teens might experience disorders like ADHD, mood disorders, depression, panic disorders, and anxiety disorders. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 13-20% of American children experience a mental disorder in any given year. 

At times it seems as though adults have no problem blaming teenage behavioral health issues on phones and social media, but sometimes the responsibilities that teenagers have to face on a daily basis play an even bigger role. 

Take a moment to think about each thing high school students have to juggle every day. First, they have school, which in itself can cause much stress on one person. The amount of students taking AP and academically challenging classes is at its highest rate, and most students are under the impression that in order to be successful, they need to take on these strenuous courses. The workload that students are given can be extremely overwhelming and Generation Z is one made up of many perfectionists and overachievers. 

Nathan Taylor, a junior at BAHS, is part of 17 different clubs, organizations, and sports. He spoke out about the daily struggles he has to face, while trying to stay as involved as he can. 

“It can be really busy and stressful, especially when having to balance it with school work and a social life. I often find myself busy working from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. doing school work, extracurriculars, or practicing. It can be very draining at times both physically and mentally. I find myself trying to have perfect control over what’s going on in life. [I try] to have perfect grades, be in good shape physically, and be involved as much as I can,” he said.

But yet, even amidst the chaos from school work and activities, apps such as Instagram and Snapchat are about capturing images and videos and sharing them with others, and often, users only post the parts of their life they wants others to see. This can create an idea in those viewing such posts of how their life is supposed to be, destroying any reality behind it. When “insta models” and others post pictures of themselves, it can easily cause others to question their own self worth.

“Social media causes a lot of pressure and insecurity. I’m always comparing myself to other people, while also trying to remember though that life can’t be defined by one picture,” one BAHS student anonymously said. 

BAHS Guidance Counselor Mr. Shawn Barbrow has 15 years of experience talking to teenagers and helping them sort through their problems and has noticed an “increase in the talk around mental health.”

“When I was a kid, you only spent 7 hours around your peers. Now it’s 24/7. There is no break. You can disconnect from social media, but then you’re missing out. The landscape has changed drastically,” he said. 

While social media might play a large part in the decline of  mental health among teenagers, the winter season is yet another contributing factor. With the sun setting sooner, it feels as though our world is in a much darker place. Through times like these, many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. 

According to Mayoclinic.org, SAD is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year.” Typically it begins at the start of the fall season and lasts towards early spring. If you are suffering from any symptoms such as feeling depressed most of the day, having problems with sleeping, feeling hopeless, or contemplating death or suicide, make sure to reach out to a therapist or trained doctor in order to treat you properly and help you. You also might choose to look for help in the walls of BAHS.

School Nurse Mrs. Val Fulton starts most of her conversations with one word: Prevention. 

Staying physically active, eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough rest, and having a stable work and life balance are excellent ways to build a healthy mind and body,” she said.

Mrs. Fulton suggests that paying attention to yourself as well as your friends can help identify mental health issues. Are you “down” a lot? Do you find it hard to get started for the day and find your once enjoyable activities unenjoyable? Do you have a very hard time relaxing? 

“Talk with someone. Find someone that you trust that you can tell your honest feelings to. Some great examples of someone to reach out to are a trusted teacher, staff member, guidance counselors, parents, or the school nurse. Don’t try to do it alone. We as the staff at Bellefonte School District care, and are here to help and listen,” she said.

Take the time to understand others and seek to find ways that we can do better as a whole community and world with helping those who suffer with mental illness. We can always learn more about humans through empathy and understanding. Bring topics such as depression and anxiety to light because so many people suffer from them. Remember that it is okay to not be okay. If you are in need of help, there is nothing wrong with asking for it.

“It’s important for students to remember that even when things get stressful and tough, that it won’t last forever. There’s a whole life ahead of us to change and be happy,” Nathan said.