By Grace Wang
Especially with the spread of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, adolescent mental health needs addressing more than ever. Learning about the causes, red flags, and potential solutions of mental health struggles provides us with the knowledge to work through our mental struggles and help those affected in our communities.
Campbell Teen and Family Therapy lead Ingrid Higgins points out several red flags that might indicate an emergency. “From inconsistent, suddenly elevated moods, skipping meals, giving away items,” behavior that is extreme, long-lasting, and inconsistent could potentially raise the need for further examination. In addition, Valley Christian high school sophomore Jolie Wu states that “when your relationships with friends start deteriorating, your grades start slipping, even if you are just feeling down, it is a good idea to talk to someone.”
We can improve our mind in correlation to our body through what Higgins calls “the three pillars of mental health”: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. A lack of either of these may result in low energy levels, low motivation, and bad moods. When trying to communicate with someone about their mental health, Higgins suggests “being curious and not judgmental, and letting the teen do the talking.”
Mental health also affects work ethic and overall productivity; at the same time, a lack of productivity can lead to a decline of feeling self-worth and higher stress levels. Jolie suggests that “getting into a set schedule and having a designated break time each week” are techniques to be productive, yet still focus and reflect on our mental states.
What Schools Can Do
With mental health concerns rising during a crisis like COVID-19, school counseling has become more of a necessity. Jolie Wu views this as a positive thing, because “now that school counseling is more efficient and readily available, students might be more willing to seek help.” While school counseling might not feel as long-term or as individually specialized as out-of-school therapy, Jolie thinks that someone “having an in-school perspective” is important to tackling academic stress and finding ways to manage grades, extra-curriculars, and friendships.
Furthermore, Higgins recommends that schools can provide “more education about what mental health disorders are, so people don’t just think of what they see in the movies”. Teaching students, parents, and staff common symptoms of mental health while encouraging helping others all contribute to ensuring a safe and supportive environment.