As a high school student, I am positive that I am not the only student that has experienced major anxiety due to the stresses of school, work, extracurricular, and college applications. Although I believe that I can control my levels of anxiety, I know that many students, especially due to the current circumstances, are suffering greatly. Although mental health is a topic that is increasingly becoming normalized, students continue to suffer with anxiety and depression at alarming rates. According to an article titled “The Epidemic of Anxiety among Today’s Students,” over “70% of teens say anxiety and depression is a major problem among their peers.” Why, in a country with the most developed technology and medicine, are depression and anxiety rates among teens and college students at the highest it has ever been? Perhaps there is a problem in the education system, a system that pressures students to do well at whatever expense. In 2016, “nearly two-thirds of college students reported overwhelming anxiety.” This statement reveals that the schools and educators must be placing too much pressure on students to achieve, or it is the students themselves who self-sabotage by setting standards for themselves that are unrealistic and completely unattainable. However, there must be another factor that is leading to these high levels of anxiety and depression, as it is not abnormal for students to feel pressured to do well in school, to a certain extent.
Yes, there is indeed another factor that has increased anxiety and depression among students, a factor that has recently taken hold of teens, and its effects are close to terrifying. According to Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, “all the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives; the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.” Teens now hold social media at their fingertips, they are in control of what they see, post, and hear. At an age when their brains are still developing, it is unhealthy for teens to constantly check social media, which contributes to stress and increases procrastination. Furthermore, “teens who spend 5+ hours a day on social media are 71% more likely to have at least one suicide risk factor than a student who spends 1 hour a day on social media.” This is not a statistic to take lightly; it reveals that social media is directly endangering teen’s lives, as it accounts for the reason suicide rates have recently increased.
So what can students do? It is not as easy to just say, “put your phone away.” Teens who have developed an addiction to social media will only be able to break this habit if they realize the downfalls of social media and realize the harm it is doing to their mental health. Putting time limits on certain apps and placing their device on the other side of the room while studying are ways to regain control of their urges to constantly check social media. Doing this will surely improve their stress levels, as procrastination will be decreased. However, it should not be completely up to the student to figure out ways to decrease their anxiety and depression. Schools, parents, and counselors also ought to continually remind their students that grades are not everything; mental health takes precedence over academics. Bad grades are one thing, but dangerous states of mental health are another; life-threatening if not treated correctly. Teens ought to be encouraged to see therapists, rather than treated as outsiders or as though they have “problems” that calls for professional help. Additionally, The National Alliance on Mental Health advises paying attention to exercise, sleep, and diet, as these factors can help a student feel better or worse, which can either increase or decrease their mental health state. Normalizing mental health days should be encouraged, spending time with family, and partaking in activities that offer inner peace, such as painting, reading, mediations, or anything spiritual in nature. Yes, students must study and work hard, but not at the expense of their mental health and anxiety. How are teens expected to be the future leaders of tomorrow if they are already experiencing burnout today?
Flannery, Mary Ellen. “The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students.” NEA, www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/epidemic-anxiety-among-todays-students.
Writers, Staff. “Promoting Student Mental Health: Resources & Support.” AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org, AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org, 17 Apr. 2019, www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/student-mental-health-resources/.