by Veronica Hayward-Mildish
Mental health seems to be regarded as less important than a person’s physical health. But, mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more, and it should be given the same treatment.
Mental health is the wellbeing of someone’s emotional, psychological, and social aspects of their life. Mental Health is impacted from biological factors, such as genetics, and the chemistry of one’s brain. It is impacted by a range of things, from a fight with family to having trouble in a class.
Mental health can be impacted at any age, at any time.
According to the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, though depressive symptoms have decreased in the last couple of years, in both the town and region, suicide rates and self-harm rates have not changed. No specific numbers have been released by the district.
School Counselor Jamie Gravelle helps around 50 students at a time, and there has been an increase in the amount of students she sees by 20% in the past couple of years.
Despite all of these factors, physical health is often still seen as more important than mental health.
And yes, physical health can impact someone’s everyday life where they wouldn’t be able to continue as normal, but this also occurs for those with mental health issues.
With four semesters of wellness classes, one would expect that these classes cover a variety of concepts related to one’s well being. Yet there is a clear focus on physical health, with lessons on weight training, team building, cardio, workout planning, CPR, hygiene, aerobics, and more. The strongest focus on mental health is in ninth grade, with lessons related to stress reduction and depression. There is little taught on mental health in other grades.
“There’s really no difference between asthma or diabetes to anxiety or depression,” says Gravelle.
Despite this lack of difference, physical and mental health issues are treated differently in the classroom.
Those students with mental health issues should be able to have restrictions like people with physical health issues do. Some students with 504s, IEPs, and BCAPs are able to get specific accommodations, such as an extended due date for assignments, presenting to smaller groups for classroom presentations, or in the very rare situation, a dismissal of a paper. But that still doesn’t equal the accommodations given to students with concussions, who are able to have work loads eliminated completely.
Once schools recognize that mental health and physical health concerns are equal, we will be able to progress more as a society, and we will encourage people with mental health issues to tell more people about it and reach out for help.
Gravelle explained how she definitely felt there are students with issues that she doesn’t know about.
A student who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety explained how they felt about the treatment of mental health.
“Some people think it’s just laziness and being a teenager and don’t help with anything.”
This student has been diagnosed for four years and has been getting the school’s assistance with it for the same amount of time. This student has been given extensions on work, but they mostly have to check in with teachers more often.
They feel that the help that they’re getting isn’t sufficient and that people don’t fully understand mental illnesses. If people put in more effort to understand mental health and mental illnesses, then we would be in a much better place, and we would be taking a step in the right direction.