School environment not actually positive for students’ mental health

Unqualified advice with Chacha


Photo by Dave Jennings/Leslie Fireman

Sasha Baumgartner provides readers with more Unqualified Advice about Valentine’s Day

By Sasha Baumgartner, Columnist

The burning in your cheeks followed by the water building up in your eyes. Your nose is running and you’re holding back blubbers from your mouth. Crying in school is not a great feeling, but that – and many other uncomfortable emotions – happen to individuals quite often. Let’s take a journey, and discover that maybe school environments are actually not ideal for students’ mental health. 

From a very young age, adolescents are shoved into a classroom and expected to thrive and socialize well. There are no classes built to help individuals manage their stressors, emotions and everyday life. As a result, there is a burning number of young adults who struggle with one or multiple mental health disorders resulting in a constant daily struggle. 

An article from the organization NPR notes that “educators face the simple fact that, often because of a lack of resources, there just aren’t enough people to tackle the job. And the ones who are working on it are often drowning in huge caseloads. Kids in need can fall through the cracks.” The fact of the matter is, there is not enough support for students to get the help they need and deserve. Student Services staff members are doing amazing work, but they cannot be present with every struggle: that is an unrealistic expectation. Furthermore, as explained in the article from NPR, in a classroom of 25 students, it is stated that 5 or more of them will be struggling with what is considered adult mental health struggles including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. 

Here at West Chicago Community High School, a survey conducted with 50 current students indicated 66% of students – more than half – believe that WEGO is not a positive environment for their mental health.

Therefore, the school environment needs to be more supportive to students’ mental health needs. 

From as far back as most kids can remember, they have been drilled and conformed to believe that their grades and schooling should always come first. This belief takes a toll on so many students because instead of prioritizing their well-being, they are prioritizing some absurd math worksheet that is not going to benefit them in any way in the future. 

Another shocking article posted by Everyday Feminism really hits right on with this exact quote: “But across the board, what unites students of all ages and life circumstances is this: unprecedented stress levels. According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America, an estimated 62% report marinating in perpetual, toxic anxiety.” 

But yet, there are still educators claiming “my class is the most important. I will not give you an extension” or any sort of grace, when they know that they could give a student another day on an assignment.

Signs like these plastered on school vending machines can be extremely triggering to individuals who have struggled with body image and any form of eating disorder in the past. This sign is promoting an unhealthy relationship with food and should not be up.

Everyday, there are students who are struggling and there needs to be awareness brought to that. There are many things that can be very triggering for individuals through a school environment, whether social or physical aspects. Support and grace needs to be presented to students from all parties at school. There should be no reason a student feels like they have to run out of a classroom with a friend because they cannot go and talk to the adult in the room due to the fact that the adult told them to wait until the end of the lesson. I call bull. While education is a great gift in the world, it is not more important than someone’s safety or well-being. In fact, if you really want to improve students’ grades, maybe look into what is going on mentally because it is almost guaranteed that mental health struggles are why they are falling academically. There is nothing more important than the relationship one has with oneself. By improving that relationship, the person will be able to grow and thrive. 

One great thing coming up for students in the state of Illinois is excused mental health days. This new development is something I thoroughly encourage: if you need the day, take the day. Take the time you need to prioritize yourself.

But there needs to be more in the classroom. Teachers should be given more advanced mental health training so they are comfortable and are able to understand the best ways to respond to students. There should also be new classes put in place to teach students to be able to manage their stressors and emotions.

There is no reason students should feel frightened to go ask for an extra day on their essay because their anxiety has been going 800 miles a minute in a given week. Students need to see that grace given to them, and the unconditional support to take care of themselves. 

So, to conclude, I’ll say I am not a professional or anything close to it – frankly I’m a hot mess most of the time, so you shouldn’t even listen to me, I wouldn’t even listen to me. But if you did happen to read this, I hope you feel a little less alone knowing that many others feel the same way about school. So, take care of yourself, buy yourself something fancy, live your life, and don’t listen to me, because yet again, I don’t know.