Mental health is an issue that despite its effect on many of those we love, continues to live in the dark. For many, it’s something they are ashamed of or fear facing ridicule as a result of. However, this should not be the case.
In this community, we are seeing a massive rise in people, especially teenagers, who struggle quietly with mental health disorders and issues. This has gone on so long and become such common knowledge that our community’s high school has been nicknamed “suicide high.” In the past three years alone I’ve seen nearly five students in my school end their own lives, and countless others have attempted to or consider it every day.
It’s always the same response from our community and school administration. They hand out meaningless “we love you’s” and drill monotone reminders of self-value into our heads. They put up signs and hold public ceremonies for the departed. This is all a spectacle, meant to make these administrators and parents look good, when in reality, the core of the issue has not changed. The culture of our community is one of constant overachievement and toxic pressure to outdo one another.
My entire middle school and high school career has been filled with friends, family, and myself worrying about how we stack up, class ranks, GPAs and AP scores. Who’s going to what college and how they got in. This has created a self-feeding cycle of pressure and pain. If we want to see a change in the mental health of our community, and our children, we need to change our community’s mindset as a whole. When a tree rots at the core, you don’t cut it down; you pull it out by the roots.
This is all to say that as a teenager myself, I see this pattern and worry deeply for my family and friends. I don’t want to worry about who's next up on a poster or funeral bill. I want to be a high schooler, playing sports, going to movies with friends, and enjoying my life while I can. Not sucked into a mire of grades, tests, class ranks, and stress-induced panic attacks. I urge every parent to talk to their child and dissolve any expectations they may have set for them. Let your child be themselves; don’t force them to prove their worth to you through arbitrary grading systems. Appreciate them as they are and let them know you do. We all have to live with each other, and the only way to do so happily is if we all have the freedom to be ourselves naturally.
High school student in Severna Park