In this article, I will discuss the correlation between school, stress, and mental health, and how school can have a negative impact on students’ health, whether physically or mentally, and no matter what age or grade.
The short answer? Yes; school does cause depression, in one way or another. However, there are many inner reasons, more than just school in general. I’m aware of this personally – from both experiences other people have had and first-hand experience. Too many times on the news, I’ve seen parents talk about their kids committing suicide because of bullying and harassment in school. And yes, that is a completely valid reason why someone would do so. But what should be talked about more is the amount of stress that gets put on students.
Of course, there’s the frequent question of “is homework really necessary?” And it’s a yes or no question, but I’m going to look closer at the details of why one would choose their answer. First, the yes answer; yes, children do need homework. It’s a good way to test their knowledge after they’ve learned about a specific topic. But if some classes don’t need homework for whatever reason, that’s on them.
On the other hand, no, children don’t need homework. On average, it takes anywhere from a usual high school student 1 hour and 25 minutes to 2 and a half hours to complete homework. And that doesn’t seem so bad, right? Well, think about other things that people might have. Extracurricular activities, taking care of family members, hanging out with friends, and possible jobs add up to a tight and stressful schedule and absolutely no time to do homework. If anything, teens especially mainly do homework at night due to all of these things, which also leads to insomnia, and procrastination also plays a big role in this too.
And that’s not all. All people have expectations for themselves, whether they realize it or not, and that leads students especially to be perfectionists, and that can have a negative effect on well-being. Parents also have heavy expectations for their children and push them a little too close to the edge at times.
Remember when I said that kids commit suicide because of bullying and harassment in school? Let’s go back to that. Bullying is the main reason why teens get school-caused depression, especially in middle and high school. After the lockdown, research shows that teen suicides due to bullying increased after students went back to in-person learning. LGBTQ+, Black, Asian, and other multiracial people experience the highest levels of bullying and poor treatment in school, according to the CDC’s Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences survey. And it’s even worse depending on who’s bullying you and how.
Everyone knows about physical, verbal, cyber, and sexual bullying; though sexual bullying is mainly called sexual harassment. But there are two kinds of bullying that are less known, or people know what it is yet don’t know the name: relational and prejudicial bullying.
First, relational bullying. When you hear the word “relation,” what’s the first word you think about? It’s probably “relationship,” right? So, “relationship bullying,” what’s that supposed to mean? It’s exactly what you’d think. Possibly, I don’t know how your brain works. But relational bullying is when a friend or simply just a peer of someone bullies them. It’s not always noticeable at first – relational bullying is doing things like spreading rumors, gossiping, humiliating, and excluding. Children get excluded from games all the time, but a lot of the time, it’s not exactly bullying. You just have to watch out for how actions are being evoked.
Second, prejudicial bullying. If you know what prejudicial means, this phrase quite literally means “harmful bullying.” And yes, all bullying is harmful. But in prejudicial bullying specifically, bullies target peoples’ gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and disabilities in any way.
According to an anonymous survey that I sent out to both my friends and more-or-less random people, 40% of takers reported being prejudicially bullied, and 10% reported being relationally bullied. And of these people, almost all of them were a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
There’s something threatening that we find about things that are “different,” about things that “aren’t normal.” I think that everyone’s special in their own way, and maybe even a little weird. The good kind of weird, if you know what I mean. Nothing’s really ever normal. But some people don’t think the same way that I do. According to the CDC, victims of bullying are up to 320% more likely to die by suicide. And when schools reopened after the lockdown, teen suicides increased by 12-18% compared to pre-pandemic levels. And even worse, research indicates that cyberbullying is worse than in-person bullying, as with cyberbullying, one could go by an anonymous name and can do practically anything without consequences as the victim(s) don’t know who the person is a lot of the time. And a study by the US National Institute of Health showed that victims of cyberbullying show worse depressive symptoms than other bullying victims.
Any association with bullying is a risk for depression in general. Children who bully others in school actually have an increased rate of depression in school years and afterward. One study found that children who get bullied and do the bullying have an increased risk of depressive disorders later in life. Plus, if depression in middle school and high school isn’t treated, it can follow them into college and even after.
In the US alone, 3 in 5 teens with depression received no mental health treatment. In some states, 3⁄4 of high school students with severe depression did not receive mental health services whatsoever. In addition to this, taking mental health services away from a person too early or before they’re ready can make their mental disorders worse than they were before. Trust me, I’d know. But from more than just personal experiences, if poor mental health doesn’t go treated, people can result in having disabilities, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate imprisonment, suicide, and poor quality of life in general.
So, how can we stop all of this from happening? If you’re a parent reading this and you have a child or children that are still living at home, check in on them every once in a while. See how they’re doing. Heck, even if they’re not living at home, check up on them anyway. And please, genuinely care. It means so much more than you know.
And if you’re someone who’s not living at home with your parent(s) and/or you aren’t a parent, notice the signs of depression and poor mental health. Treat it before it gets too bad. This goes for anything else as well: research before you make an assumption. Someone can look perfectly fine and still have pretty bad mental health, have a poor living situation at home, anything. I hope you learned something from this. And if you didn’t, or have the unlikely chance of knowing everything that I wrote already, that’s okay too. Either way, this article has to come to a close now. The bell’s ringing, so let’s pack up our bags and move on to the next class.