Editor’s note: Some reports claim the suicide attempts in our country are at an all-time high. And with schools returning, both online and in-person, what exactly are administrators doing to ensure the mental health of their students? This piece was written by three Colorado high school students: Ceirra Noel, Amy Mackay, and Ashley Garcia. Ceirra Noel is sophomore at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Early College in Denver and an intern at YAASPA. Amy Mackay is a senior at Holyoke High School in Northeast Colorado and works with the Colorado Youth Congress. Ashely Garcia is a senior at Gateway High School in Aurora and an intern with YAASPA.
As a group of high school students from both urban and rural communities, we are banding together to make sure school systems prioritize our mental health. We have communicated that we need consistent mental health support, yet we are not receiving it.
And when there is support, it’s not equally distributed. According to the Colorado Health Institute, 48% of LGBTQ students in our state have considered suicide. Two of every five female students have reported symptoms of depression, which is almost 20% more than male students. And multiracial students reported attempting suicide at a rate nearly 10% higher than white students. We cannot accept this reality.
What exactly are school administrators doing to ensure the mental health of their students? In most cases, not enough. Rather than focus on our health and well-being, administrators usually care most about how we’re doing on standardized testing.
What’s important to understand is that if a student is struggling with any stress, we are more likely to perform poorly. In our modern world, we face far busier schedules than ever before. With this stress, sleep can be difficult and these concerns have only been heightened by the uncertainty of our future due to the pandemic.
Despite the fact that we have had to do virtual learning in most districts across the state, we are hoping that every child will receive opportunities, programs, and the overall support we need to succeed mentally, emotionally and physically.
Mental health support within a school could look like a well-resourced therapist or counselor who can support us as we navigate uncertainty. There should also be systems set up to check in on how we’re doing — something as simple as a survey or advisory groups can be incredibly powerful.
Programs such as Sources of Strength, Seven Mindsets and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculums can be led by teachers, and help develop a student’s social and emotional well-being. We understand that some may argue against youth discussing their worries or problems. But in reality, it’s been proven that an open dialogue about mental health can help everyone heal.
To sum it up, we would like for our voices to be not just heard, but responded to. We are now looking to school administrators to address and create change concerning our mental health and wellness. There are many different things that we as students need and deserve, and mental health and wellness should always be one of the top priorities of any school system.