America’s education system contributes negatively to mental health, especially in middle school and high school. Earlier this year, a middle school student in Arizona committed suicide by firearm in the bathroom. On Tuesday, a 7th grader in Ohio attempted to shoot himself in the school bathroom. The motives in each remain uncertain; however, it is certain that the school provided an apathetic atmosphere that allowed each student to carry a firearm inside the building and shoot themselves without intervention. One would believe security would be increased after the Parkland Shooting and the rise of the gun reform debate, yet it’s another disappointment that is evidence the school environment will eternally remain dubious.
Instead of another call for gun reform, this is a call for mental health awareness in education. As of 2015, almost 20% of students reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide and approximately 10% reported actually attempting suicide. The statistics only fall in line with those who participated in the survey and answered honestly. These teens and others may face external factors such as familial quandaries and social stress, but the school setting is a particularly rocky surrounding full of numerous stressors and pressures. These can include excessive work, social pressure and chronophobia, or fear of the future that comes with college or any other pathway.
The school system can contribute to already existing mental health problems and even stem into new ones because of the profuse amount of stress. In fact, short-term stress can cause anxiety while long-term stress can cause more salient problems such as chronic anxiety, depression and heart problems. These issues are apparent in every school, ranging from public to private schools.
While each school may hold different challenges, they still maintain at times toxic environments that can ignore clear cries for help. These outbursts can be labeled attention-seeking and disruptive, usually when teachers aren’t trained to seek out mental problems or changes in behavior and have other things to deal with; however, already existing mental health problems or those brought on by the educational setting should not be ignored regardless of the circumstance. These school suicides are a phenomenon that represents a clear pattern of people reaching out for help. Suicide is a feeling of helplessness and impulsiveness and there are other options. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. There are numerous suicide prevention groups available. No one is ever alone. Mental illness is something America needs to focus on and acknowledge more, especially in education.
Photo by: Tero Vesalainen
(originally published February 22, 2018)