There is no question that this generation is far more different than any other generation in the past. From mass shootings to extreme climate change, we are experiencing very drastic changes that are impacting us all. I could go on and on but the one thing that is a growing epidemic in Generation Z are mental health issues.
About two years ago during winter break at my high school (Dulaney High School), a student committed suicide. He was struggling with depression and difficult situations going on at home and he couldn’t take it anymore. He did not receive any treatment due to financial issues and did not receive help from the school. After that student committed suicide, my school brought in local therapists as well as other mental health services. They also had us fill out gratitude slips at the beginning of every day so they can post them around school. They went all out in ways I’ve never seen before, and it made me think “where was this before?” After a few months passed, they stopped doing that and things went back to the way they were before, when none of those resources were there and there were just the five counselors catering to the needs of over 2,000 students.
I had to go to counseling a few times during my high school years and to sum it up, it wasn’t that great. When you make an appointment at Dulaney, you go to the counseling office, fill out a request form, and wait for about a week before a counselor gets back to you. On the day of your appointment, you go in and you vent to them and they sometimes help out, but the most they can do is give you a pamphlet and tell you to go back to class. What kind of method is that? That right there just told me that they didn’t care. There are over 20 local counselors and mental health services in the Baltimore area and public schools are not taking advantage of them. The only time they do take advantage of them is when it’s too late.
Recently I conducted a survey directed towards Dulaney High School graduates who graduated between the years 2016 and 2019 to ask their opinion on having more mental health resources at Dulaney and as well as other public schools. 81 people took my survey and 94% of the responses agree with having more mental health access and 84% agree with putting more counselors in overcrowding schools like Dulaney to fit everyone else’s needs. If there are only about five or six counselors in a school with 2,000 students, how can the school provide support for every one of them? How can students easily access support services with that ratio?
Towards the end of my high school career, it was time to start applying to colleges. While doing my college research as well as going on college visits, one of the factors that stood out to me about Goucher is the amount of support services they have. There’s the Student Counseling Office, Wellness Center, Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Health Center. On a tour, I also found out that at Goucher there are Fresh Check Days to check in with college students and see how they’re doing. Imagine if public high schools had these resources. Like I’ve said before, I came from Dulaney High School, one of the best high schools in the state and when I came to Goucher, it made me realize how much I was missing out on. There were all these resources I could’ve used back in high school when I was going through a lot of rough times, but couldn’t due to lack of availability.
I’ve been at Goucher for about a month or so and recently I’ve made appointments with the Student Counseling Center. When you make an appointment, you call them and tell them when you’re available. Then, the Counseling Center will send you an email explaining what the appointment will be like and provide other mental health lines in case of an emergency. On the day of your appointment, the counselor will ask you thorough questions to understand the issue you’re experiencing. They help you map out a detailed plan and figure out ways they can fully address your needs for the rest of the semester.
Now imagine that process at a public middle or high school. Think about all the benefits of having this type of process. Instead of having to wait for a week for a counselor to get back to you, they answer you right away. Imagine them helping you create a detailed plan for the rest of the school year to cater to your needs.
As stated in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) webpage about “1 in 6 children between the ages of 6-17 years old experience a mental health disorder each year.” It also states that depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in children. According to the Central for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, “about 3 in 4 children ages 3-17 years old with depression also have anxiety.” This issue is growing at alarming rates within adolescents. The time to take action starts now and it starts with us.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.” We the students, have the power to bring attention to these issues in so many ways. Create a mental awareness club, start a petition to gain attention from your school administrators and get other students together to organize events that promotes awareness as well. Shedding light on this topic will help administrators as well as other high-ranked school officials to see how the benefits will impact young people in the long run.
BY MONICA VALDEZ RAMOS