This topic goes along with why I want to be a social worker in a school system.
I am looking at this question from only a high school perspective because that is what is most clear to me.
High school is a stress enough. If you plan to go to college you worry about your grades, studying for exams, your GPA, your SAT scores, etc. There are many milestones within the time. Taking your driver's test. Sports, clubs, or any school event you could be involved in.
On top of the in-school academic stress, there is social life. In high school, everyone is maturing and finding it easier to express their opinions and be their true self. It is much easier to find your "fit", or the friends that are able to build you up, and bring out the best in you.
It is also that extremely confusing time where you try to be considered as a young adult, but you also want to stay a kid.
So if you add mental issues to the topic....
In school, health classes spend time discussing a healthy nutrition, bullying, drugs and alcohol, and sex education. Little education is spent on mental illness and how it can affect students like us.
Because of the little education of mental illness in school systems, and in the world overall, it allows stigma to have a greater power.
In high school, you still care what people think of you. Nobody wants to feel misunderstood. But we are.
Mental illness is invisible but very real. If a student's grades are declining people are quick to assume the student is lazy, stupid, or just doesn't care.
If a student does not speak to others or make their presence known in class it could be assumed that they are anti-social, self-centered, or not a friendly person. Maybe the student is shy, maybe the student has social anxiety? Maybe the student needs someone to approach them first?
It is also difficult for your peers to understand. You can't blame them, but it does make things very difficult.
If you are anxious have you ever heard:
-just calm down
-you'll be fine
-just don't think about it
If you are depressed have you ever heard:
-look on the bright side
-other people have it worse
-you need to stop doing this to yourself
GEE, don't those just feel so good?
For me, my mental health struggles make it insanely difficult because i want to talk about it, but i also fear what people will say.
What i've learned is that you can't get mad at those who don't always say the right thing, or don't know what you are truly going through. You may feel alone, you may feel misunderstood, and frustrated. That is your opportunity to teach them. Not in a way that shows "you don't know what you're talking about." or that they suck at helping you. In reality, they do care, they want to help, they just don't know how.
One of my friends asked me what it was like to have social anxiety. She didn't understand it, and she asked what it feels like. I went on Pinterest and found quotes or funny statements about social anxiety, or triggers to social anxiety. She said it helped a lot, and it meant a lot to me that she was interested in learning. Obviously a few pictures can not sum up the disorder, but it does help to give an idea.
You can find ways to help your teachers to know as well. You can either tell them in person, or send them an email to update them that you are struggling with some personal things, and you just want to let them know you are trying, but you may not be performing as your best self. If you do not want direct confrontation, you can find ways to get involved in your school.
See if you can get permission to hang up an informational poster, or submit an anonymous article to your school paper about how school is tough for students who are struggling with their own issues.
The lack of knowledge, and the immense stigma around are unfortunate, but it doesn't mean it always has to be this way.
If it bothers you, do your part.
There is always something you can do to get help/help others, or make sure you can succeed.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.