High School: Still The Best 4 Years of Our Lives?

By Emma Hall, Oakdale High School

Mental Health is an ongoing issue for teens, the most prevalent are anxiety and depression. The severity of these illnesses ranges from person to person, but the issue is still frequent in an unprecedented amount of high schooler’s lives. In fact, a fifth of young people in the population are suffering from mental setbacks.

“I think a lot of stress [that students experience] comes from the workload that teachers assign us,” sophomore Grace Kacur admits.

She also mentions that this excess stress from academics has caused her to cry during classes because of the pressure to receive good grades. “[The pressure from parents and peers] has affected my high school experience a lot.”

School work isn’t all to blame for the impact on teens. Sammy Estepp, sophomore and varsity cheerleader, believes that the combination of academic and athletic pressure is the main cause of the tension in students: “This school especially is known for its athletic program, so all of these student-athletes are not only dealing with the stress of doing well on their team but also maintaining good grades.”

Other extra-curricular activities such as band, participation in a school play, clubs, academic organizations, jobs, or volunteer opportunities can also put a lot of stress on teens and can affect their mental stability.

Estepp also comments how no source of stress is more influential than the others, and that the massive amount of anxiety student-athletes experience is from a combination of social, extra-curricular, and academic.

Anxiety from the social aspect of high school also has a tremendous influence on a student’s mental health. “It’s hard getting up in the morning knowing that you’re going to be taking even more tests that day, and you’re going to be around the same negative people again,” sophomore Lea Martinez, expressed.

“Conceited people bragging about their grades don’t help [a students stress levels over test results] either,” Martinez confided.

This trend of spiking anxiety and depression levels are not excluded from Oakdale. A whopping 20% of the teen population in general suffers from a disorder of some kind all over the country, yet still, only 4% of the national budget is spent on mental health care.

Oakdale is attempting to defy all odds and lower mental health setbacks by starting an all-new event taking place during lunch on half-days. They are offering calming activities such as rock painting, calligraphy, ping-pong, cornhole, and by far the most popular, therapy dogs. The 4 dogs were brought in from Wags for Hope and were crowded with people the second they arrived.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done something like this,” Carrie Hadden, owner of the dog Belinda, confirmed.

“Everyone has been very uplifted [by having the dogs at school]” Hadden added. She believes that the entire event on Friday will have a calming, positive effect on teens and their mental states.

Hadden was correct; the activities set out had a tremendous positive influence. In fact, every single student surveyed said that they thought the therapy dogs, along with the other pastimes, would have a beneficial impression on students.

The lunch-time event is not the only way Oakdale is trying to spread a message concerning mental illness. On Wednesday, October 10th, the school held ‘Green-Out’ to participate in Mental Health Awareness week.

If struggling with a mental disorder or setback, the best thing to do is talk to a parent, guidance counselor, friend, or any other trusted person. The most recommended thing to do would be to find an outlet to escape to if overwhelmed. Please remember that others are struggling with similar feelings and it gets better. High school should be the best 4 years of someone’s life, so try to enjoy them.

This story was originally published on Paw Print on October 11, 2018.