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The Mental Health Epidemic in Schools is Damaging Our Youth

School. This word represents something different for every individual. Whether it brings feelings of excitement, stress, loneliness or contentment, it always has meaning and sentimental value. For so many, myself included, it triggers deep-rooted issues that started when school first became one of the biggest chunks of our lives. There are 74.5 million student citizens in the U.S. and around 17.1 million of them have mental illnesses; more than the number of children with cancer, AIDS and diabetes combined. This is an insane and unhealthy amount of people whose lives have been altered and schools have most definitely been apart of the cause.

50% of adults with mental illnesses had onsets of them by the age of 14. By 24, a few years older than college age, this number jumps to 75%. The job and college market is at an all-time peak for competitiveness and with parents and teachers pressuring students to do well in school if they want a “bright future,” it is no surprise that mental illnesses have been forming more frequently. On top of all of this, it seems as though school is becoming increasingly more demanding for students. In 1990, the average amount of credits taken by a high school senior was 23.6 and in 2009, the average jumped to 27.2. This means that students are taking more classes than in earlier years, leading to more work, creating a higher chance of developing a mental illness.

This is concerning enough on its own, right? Well, to add to your worries, let me slip in the fact that out of the millions of adolescents with mental illnesses, less than half get formally diagnosed or proper treatment. This is partially due to the lack of self-initiation to get help but also because there is an extreme shortage of school psychologists that can give students the support they need. The ratio of psychologists to students is 1:1,482. With this number and the countless amount of reasons one might have for not wanting to get help, it now seems obvious why there are so many left untreated.  

Our society has built up an expectation of what a proper education should be like and when students get overwhelmed with the unrealistic goals they are supposed to live up to, it can take a huge toll on their mental stability. The system we currently rely on to shape children to be well-rounded, happy people has proven unreliable since it has sent so many down into the depths of depression. We need to bring awareness to its faults if we ever want our schools to be a place where good values are cultivated, enhancing the adults we want to see in the future.

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