Anxiety: A foreign word to some but a familiar one for many others. As high school students in 2019, we are dealing with an epidemic of anxiety that no other generation of students has yet to deal with. Although the stigma around mental health has begun to alleviate, we are still facing a world where the discussion of mental illnesses is often accompanied by misunderstanding. However, these issues are not minor ones that can be swept under the rug. In fact, research done by the National Institute for Mental Health in recent years have found that 30% of girls and 20% of boys are suffering with anxiety disorders (“Anxiety in Teens”).
As the semester is coming to an end, I wanted to talk about how anxiety plays a role at Orange Lutheran and shed some light on a topic that is vitally important to understand. I had the privilege of communicating with the Orange Lutheran Counseling Department and asking some questions to open up the conversation about mental health and the ways in which we as students can find help and support. Here are some of the questions they were able to address:
How have you experienced anxiety affecting students at Orange Lutheran and what are the most common factors of anxiety for high school students?
The counseling department agreed that students at OLu are “not immune” to mental health because they have seen how anxiety affects students throughout their time in high school. Some of the most common reasons that anxiety levels may be higher in high school is the stress on identity, intelligence, and the ability to succeed. The way an individual perceives themselves can cause anxiety as well as the increased pressure in academics and responsibilities. However, school is not the only thing high school students have on their plate. In fact, the counselors pointed out that “it can be difficult to manage stress at school when confronted with major life concerns” outside of school. As students, we are trying to learn how to balance all of life’s aspects and adapt to new environments. With that said, the counselors identified that specific decisions have been implemented to increase Orange Lutheran students’ abilities to cope and “more effectively manage their anxiety.”
What are the ways that Orange Lutheran prioritizes mental health in an effort to reduce the anxieties of high school, and in what ways would you encourage students who deal with anxiety to approach this problem?
One way that Orange Lutheran has intentionally made mental health a priority is by encouraging students to focus on “a growth mindset” and not one strictly focused on letter grades. The counseling department specifically works with students to “assist them in finding a good fit” for their life beyond high school by emphasizing the individual instead of only focusing on “building a resume for college.” In terms of what a student is encouraged to do if they are struggling with mental health, they want the students to know that help and support is always available to any student who needs it, and that they would encourage them to seek support — the sooner the better. No one on campus needs to feel isolated or alone, and the counseling department has resources and the heart to come alongside students who seek guidance.
Do you feel that our school could do more to break the stigma of mental health and/or find ways to approach the problem better?
Of course there is always room for growth, the department said, however they believe that Orange Lutheran is constantly seeking to improve and expand the ways in which students’ needs are met. Their priority is creating a safe, supportive learning environment that prepares students for life beyond high school.
Being able to hear from the counselors about their view on anxiety in high school led me to feel grateful for attending a school that both prioritizes and advertises support for students grappling with anxiety. I know that for me, and countless other students both at Orange Lutheran and across the world, anxiety has become a part of our lives, and as the next generation we have the ability to start conversations and encourage a change that could allow us to face this monster. If you have felt the isolation that comes from mental illness, let me tell you: You. Are. Not. Alone. There are so many people and resources available for you. The greatest piece of advice I could tell you is to talk. Find the people who care about you most, and don’t be afraid to allow others to be there for you. Mental health is vital but sadly often compromised, especially in high school simply due to the fact that there are so many things we need to focus on. Going into the new year, let’s focus on building up our empathy towards others and ourselves, so that the work and love of Christ can be accomplished both in us and through us.
“Anxiety in Teens Is Prevalent – How Can We Solve This?” Portland, 16 Aug. 2018, https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/anxiety-teens/.
Photo Credit: Randolph Art Center