Mental Health: A comprehensive guide for High School

Jennie Parsons, Staff Writer

Mental Health: A comprehensive guide for High School

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Mental health is an important thing to foster, especially in a stressful place like a high school. People all around you are suffering from some condition to another. It may not be as prevalent or as severe as other, but nevertheless it is a disease and should be viewed as such.

It should also not be a taboo subject. Thousands of people suffer from some form of mental illness at least some time in their lifetime. We need to be vocal about our support for those suffering.

There are all kinds of different illnesses that can affect people. I will break down into the most common ones for high schoolers.

Depression: feelings of severe despondency and dejection

For some, depression has been a huge role in our lives, and we didn’t even realize it. It is easy for me to write about, as I myself have been diagnosed with severe depression in my life. It is far more complicated of a feeling than to just be sad constantly, although that may be how some people are affected by it.

A few symptoms for depression (according to the American Psychiatric Association) include:
Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Loss of energy or increased fatigue
Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
Feeling worthless or guilty
Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide

If you feel as if you are suffering from any of these, I recommend seeing a doctor or therapist.

I think my friend may be depressed, but don’t know how to talk about it!

Depression can be a very awkward subject to approach, especially if you have never talked about it before. Don’t worry, I have a few tips for you!

Remind them that you are there for them. Sometimes a simple reminder that you can be relied on can spur some dialogue about recent problems.
Do not force conversation. If you try to force the subject too much, they will feel pressured and may feel more on edge than usual. Let them know that you are always open for talking with them.
Be openly caring. Now this may be easier for the girls than the boys, but it is an important part of growing up that we have a support system. Hug, hold hands, lean on each other, or any kind of contact can show a kindness that words cannot express.
Encourage exercise. This may seem dumb, but it is a true statement when I say that exercising can help regulate mood. It may not be for everyone though, so do not act as if this is the only cure.
Recommend seeking medical attention. If your friend has been suffering from the above symptoms for more than two weeks, they can be clinically diagnosed and be prescribed a form of treatment. Most doctors would start off recommending counselling and are hesitant to prescribe meds to teenagers unless necessary.

Quick supportive statements:
You are important to me.
You are not alone.
You don’t have to feel guilty, this isn’t your fault.
Avoid “down” statements, such as “pull yourself together,” and “someone out there always has it worse.”

I am suffering from depression, but don’t know how to deal with it!

Let me tell you from experience, it is hard to confront the problem head on. It is a whole different monster to try to better yourself compared to simply acknowledging the problem. For some, depression has been a part of your life for years and can be scary to lose. Remember that your main goal is to live your best life.

For my first tip, I want to tell you to see a therapist. They are specially trained to deal with your problems. It is not weak to seek medical help from a therapist. Everyday people see therapists, many times it is to simply sit down and solve your problems!

I have an array of coping mechanisms that help me go through my everyday life. Even though they help me, they may not help you. Which is why I recommend seeing a therapist to figure out mechanisms that work for you.

My therapist had me swear off of saying suicidal statements. Even as a joke, they impact your mental health. If you say it enough, your brain begins to believe it.

So even if you are completely free of mental illness, no suicide jokes!

For other tips, I would tell you to find coping mechanisms, specifically healthy ones. Usually it’s something to take your mind off of things. It’s music for many. I find watching Bob Ross to work the best for me.

Each person is different, so different techniques work best for some more than others. Again, see a therapist for best results.

When you’re depressed it’s hard to imagine a future for yourself. What I do to help with that is to plan different benchmarks in your life. Plan a trip across the US. Where are you going to stop? How are you getting around? Will you go alone or with a friend? Or plan where you’re going to live. Is there a house available in the town you want to live in? What’s your dream house?

Simple tasks that can be done with an internet connection and some form of organization.

Finally, remember that there are people that care for you. Even if you sit alone at lunch, there is someone who would care if you were gone. Also, students should seek a trusted adult for help. Many students feel very overwhelmed with their friends depression and shouldn’t be the only person they are talking to.

Anxiety disorder: feelings past the normal amount of nervousness and anxiousness to excessive fear or anxiety

Anxiety is the most common form of mental disorder. It affects more than 30 percent of adults at least some time in their life.

Anxiety disorder is a very broad term that encompasses many more versions of anxiety, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “anxiety” as an umbrella term that encompasses all of these, despite their differences.

In order to be medically diagnosed, your fear or anxiety must be so extreme that it hinders your ability to function normally, or be out of proportion to the situation or age inappropriate (according to the American Psychiatric Association)

Physical symptoms differ from person to person. Some people may constantly tapping their feet or fidgeting. Others may grind their teeth and clench their jaw. Dealing with anxiety is really difficult because half the time, you don’t know why you’re anxious.

I have a few tips for people with anxiety.

First, try square breathing. It is a simple breathing exercise to help you be mindful of your breathing and to help calm you. Take a deep breath in for four seconds. Hold that breath for four seconds, let it out for four seconds, and then hold out from breathing in for four seconds. It is a repeated cycle. You can replace that four seconds with any amount of time, but it is recommended to be no shorter than four.

Another tip is to find your distractions. For me, I like to do sudoku when I’m anxious. So I carry a little book of them around with me. For others it is fidgeting with a little item in their hand. It may even be music for some.

For best results, I recommend seeing a therapist to have it all professionally worked out on what will work for you.

My friend is having a panic attack, what do I do?

The first step is to get your friend to a location off of the beaten path. If they are in a hallway, bring them into a classroom and head straight for a back corner. If it is not possible, have another person stand guard and direct onlookers away.

What you have to do is ground them to their surroundings. Have small physical contact if they are alright with it.

Make sure you vocalize EVERYTHING that you are doing. Ask before you touch them.

Try to have them follow your breathing patterns. Count out loud to the square breathing activity above. If they allow it, hold their hand to your chest so they can feel your breathing.

Then have them list their senses.

Ask them to name five things they can see.

Four things they can hear.

Three things they can feel.

Two things they can smell.

One thing they can taste.

I would do a mixture of both breathing and listing the senses for best results. Listing the senses they are currently experiencing helps them get back to reality, while breathing calms their heart rate. Repeat until necessary.

Panic attacks take a lot out of a person. You may feel tired after having one. If you can, take a short rest. If not, plan on going to bed early.

In conclusion

Mental health is no joke. In 2017 people aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 14.46% in the United States (according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Your health should be your number one priority. Help a friend in trouble out.