By Kirsten Thomas
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, nearly half of the estimated 60 million people living with mental illness in the US do not seek treatment. Unfortunately, in areas of medicine, mental health is treated second tier to physical health, resulting in poor care and stigmatization for many.
Because of the stigmas surrounding mental health, people can shy away from talking about it, despite nearly one in five adults experiencing some form of mental illness during their lifetime.
When mental illness is talked about, it’s important to not fall into the stigma surrounding it. “Mental health and mental illness impact nearly every family, yet stigma still causes so much shame, fear, doubt, isolation and misunderstanding,” Dave Eldredge, senior director at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said. “The shame caused by stigma keeps people from seeking treatment so richly needed and deserved.”
In fact, according to a February sample of 51 Bellbrook students, 49% said they struggled with mental health.
Stigma is such a large part of the mental health struggle that there is actually a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness called BreaktheStigma.org.
According to the University of Utah Health, if you have a painful toothache, you don’t tough it out. Why would mental health be treated any differently? If we take care of mental health the same way we do physical wellbeing, it helps break down our societal and personal barriers that prevent people from seeking treatment. Although mental health may be more complex and offer a greater variety of treatment options including biomedical and cognitive therapies, it’s equally as important as physical health, especially since research shows that mental and physical wellbeing are interconnected.
To be real with yourself about what you’re going through, and get the help you need, you have to first “break the stigma” with yourself. There’s a maxim that says, “Admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery.”
Dealing with perfectionism in a competitive academic environment
Lots of students try to prepare to get into “a good school” starting their freshman year of high school. Bellbrook offers several opportunities for students to learn and look good on a resume, offering 12 AP and 14 College Credit Plus options at the high school (off campus, students have even more options).
In the class of 2022, 91% of graduates planned to attend college, and most students coming out of Bellbrook do so with some type of transferable credit. In the 2021-22 school year, over 200 students took courses for college credit, both on campus at BHS and at local colleges/universities, according to this BHS report.
However, students are not immune to academic-related stress that can negatively affect their mental health. “Creating a balance between school and other needed activities to be a well-rounded student brings extra stress and takes away time, therefore making school even harder,” senior Kate Bowers said.
“The workload that everyone is juggling all the time can lead to getting worse grades because everyone is so overworked,” senior Karsyn Fortkamp said.
Vicki Abeles, author of Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation, says the pressure to “succeed” makes students anxious, depressed and stressed, and many students would agree with that.
“I feel like I have to do really well now because I’m young and what I do now will affect me for the rest of my life,” a Bellbrook sophomore said.
The pressures can create a cycle that is nearly impossible to escape once students reach a certain point, where they either continue working as they are and neglect their mental health, or allow their grades to suffer.
“I feel like schools since day one have focused on perfection rather than progress, and that there isn’t a lot of true learning happening,” senior John Goffinett said. “A lot of it is to learn the material, test over it, forget it and move onto the next topic. The school system doesn’t structure learning in a way where you can retain information long term.”
“When it comes to subjects that you are struggling in, you shouldn’t be focused on perfection,” Goffinett said. “Because the truth of the matter is, if you’re struggling, you aren’t going to get that 100%, but rather ‘So, OK I got a 75%, let’s shoot for a 76% and just keep focusing on improving.’”
How to identify that something is wrong
It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions; they’re what make us human. However, if your mental state affects you in a way that debilitates your daily life on a consistent basis, that’s a large indication that you’re experiencing something beyond regular emotional fluctuations, and you should probably address it.
If you want to learn more about various conditions, use this article: Mental health disorders and treatment plans are varied as a stepping stone.
Treatment options and self-help
There are two common approaches to treating mental health – biomedical treatments and cognitive therapies. Although both have been shown to be effective, there is a divide amongst professionals on what really is the best approach.
The biomedical approach involves the use of prescription drugs, and while effective, it fails to address the root causes of the problem, focusing only on the symptoms, according to the Noba Project. Behavioral and cognitive therapies have been shown to be the most effective method for making lasting changes to mental health.
For self-help suggestions, read: How to be calm – EagleView News
If you have the urge to harm yourself, regularly feel sad or hopeless, are with a person who harms you physically or emotionally, or if you just feel like you need someone to talk to, please call 988, and talk to your parents or an adult whom you trust.