Today, I’d like to talk about an issue I feel very strongly about, due to my own personal experiences and those of my friends, family, and fellow students. It’s an issue very few people feel comfortable speaking about, though it’s extremely important and the consequences of ignoring it can be extremely dangerous. Today I’d like to talk to you about mental health in teenagers.

In my 11-ish years of schooling, I’ve seen a lot of my friends slowly deteriorate. I’ve watched classmates that I’ve known since middle school go from being honor roll students to students who struggle to pass the year. I’ve seen students who usually ace tests get caught cheating because they didn’t have the time or energy to study the night before, and because they’ve never cheated they don’t know how to. I’ve seen students break down and start crying for seemingly no reason. When confronted, all they can say is “I’m so tired”. Let’s examine that for a second.

There are two types of tired. There’s the type of tired where all you need is a nap and you’ll be grand. And then there’s the type of tired where it feels like there’s no point in even trying anymore, where all your motivation has been sucked out of you and you just want to lay in bed all day. Both types of tired are seen by teachers and parents as laziness or a lack of effort and ambition. But the truth is that we’ve been pushed to a limit where we can barely function anymore.

I’m not saying it’s anybody’s fault. Anxiety and depression levels have risen considerably in the past few years, to the point where students of today are more depressed and anxiety ridden than students in any other time period. This can explain why many adults don’t really understand what teens with poor mental health are going through, and why it’s so easy for these teens to be labeled as lazy and inconsiderate.

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But the problem is not going away. If anything, it’s getting worse. More and more teenagers are harming themselves because they can’t handle their emotions any other way. Eating disorders, self harm, suicide, are all extremely big problems in today’s youth that society refuses to acknowledge because it’s “taboo”. But with so many people suffering, it’s not safe to keep it a secret.

We need people to speak out for mental health awareness. We need to educate teachers, parents, caregivers, tutors, young children, and other teens about mental health and how easy it is for it to deteriorate. If enough people know what to look out for, we can help more teenagers. We can give them the tools they need to survive.

It’s not the most easy topic to talk about. It’s extremely personal and it’s very easy to get shut down by people who don’t want to hear you, but if nobody speaks out, if nobody educates others, if nobody highlights what a huge problem this is, people will get hurt in ways that can’t be undone. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness is just as valid as physical illness.

 

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