I’m going to start by asking a simple question. What is mental health? Is it someone being forced to be in a hospital because they’re “psychotic” and aren’t safe? Is it a person who stays in their room all day, not showering, eating, or moving? Yes. It can be those examples, but mental health can also be someone coming to school to get away from the psychological abuse they deal with at home. Painting on a smile acting like everything is okay, because they don’t want their parents to be sent away nor do they want to be put in a group home.
The clinical definition of mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”
You don’t have to be clinically diagnosed with anxiety to feel anxious. You don’t need to be diagnosed with a mental disorder to take a mental health day. You don’t need to be on medications to feel valid in your suffering. Mental health affects us all. It doesn’t matter if one person has been in and out of a psychiatric unit, and another is at home trying to get through the day. They can both be suffering the same symptoms in their brain.
Mental health seems to not be taken seriously. There are so many people who post to “spread awareness” for mental health, and then they make fun of suicide or someone who hasn’t been in school because they’re depressed. It seems that people don’t understand the severity of mental health, and how it can affect anyone.
Imagine this. You’re sitting in your math class. The girl in front of you hasn’t been at school for a week. She comes back and she looks perfectly fine. You see no cast which means she didn’t break anything. You talk to her normally, and you don’t think anything of it. You see her after class smiling and laughing with a big group of her friends. She’s hugging her boyfriend, saying hi to everyone in the hall as if everyone knows her and loves her. She’s in all honors and AP classes, and always gets good grades. Everyone wishes they were her. But, when she goes home, she has to take care of her 4 younger siblings while her mom is out at a bar getting drunk with a different guy who is not her dad. Every night she’s wondering if she should end it all. Contemplating back and forth with pills in her hand. Yet, she comes to school happy, and you would never know what she is going through. You never know, until it’s too late.
Imagine this girl did end her life, as sad as this is to imagine. You hear about it all over school. You have never had more than a couple conversations with her, but you and so many others who are in the same boat as you post on your story for her. Saying, “always check up on your friends” and “she will be so missed, you never know what people are going through.” But, they were the same people who wouldn’t send her homework the day before. That simple task could have possibly made her think people do care. That one message could have helped her conscious step in and convince her that she does not want to go through with this.
Saying to check up on your friends and acting on it are very different things. You have to be nice to everyone you meet and talk to, because you could be someone’s only positive encounter in their whole day. Be the person to make someone’s day. Be the person who makes someone feel worthy and valid.
So, what is mental health? Is it worth discussing? Is it worth spending time informing people about it? YES!
If students and teachers aren’t informed about mental health illnesses, school will not be a safe place for students. Isn’t that what is preached to us? All of us or none of us right? If we aren’t helping someone who is struggling, it’s not all of us. It’s one person struggling alone with no help, no safe place to go and no safe person to go to. We should want to help our peers. Make them feel like they deserve to be here and live in this beautiful life.
The real question is, how are you going to preach to others to keep fighting and to live because life is so precious, when you don’t want to be here yourself? How can you compliment others and boost them up when you can’t compliment yourself? You are the most important. You have to be kind to yourself, because if you don’t love yourself how are you going to love anyone else?
To help all of you with not just self love, but the feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed, here’s what I recommend. Participate in a self care activity at least once a day. This will help you not only take a break from all your stresses in your life, but also show that you care about yourself and your mental health. Some examples include but are not limited to; going for a walk, drawing, writing/journaling, yoga/stretching, board games, watching a movie, baking, doing your hair, doing your makeup, taking a shower, affirmations, giving yourself a compliment, give your loved ones a hug, listening to music, dance, paint your nails, take a nap, organize/clean, do a craft. Obviously, not all of these will work for every single person because we’re all different people with different needs. I do suggest trying some of these, to make sure you are taking care of you. Self care does not include; overworking yourself, participating in something you do not enjoy, participating in something that enhances your anxiety, participating in something that is depriving you, participating in something that is harming you (physically or mentally), criticizing yourself, isolating yourself or avoiding people.
During these crazy times especially, it’s important to check in with yourself to make sure you are okay. You never know how stressed out you are until you take a step back. Remember to breathe, take in this amazing life we’re living. Don’t take the days for granted. Live every moment to the fullest, and make sure you’re living for YOU!!!
So, send a text to your friends and say thank you for being you. Say I love being your friend. Compliment someone in school. Slide up on someone’s story. One little word or phrase can go a long way.
Lexi is a senior at Sweet Home High School and previously wrote for the Panther Press where she was the editor for the News section for two years. Lexi is now the Opinion section editor of The Panther Eye. She plays volleyball for the Varsity team at Sweet Home.