Mental Health Struggles Pose Barrier for Students’ Success in School


When students struggle with mental health, their academic work in the classroom can also decline.

Damiyha Watts, Staff Writer

When coming into high school, most people are excited about the freedom it brings. You aren’t forced to be with one group of kids all day, and you get to shuffle around and see new faces. You get to make more choices on your own, like picking the classes you want, and you aren’t forced to socialize with people. Every decision is your own.

Although this new freedom can be amazing, it can also cause stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the new environment, new faces, and the fast pace. When you first come into high school, most people are so strictly focused on keeping their grades up, but that’s not all that matters. Grades are important but so are friendships, hobbies, and other activities that bring you joy. 

Spending most of your time focusing on schoolwork could lead to physical health problems, high-stress levels, and social problems. This all could lead to having bad and unhealthy thoughts and life patterns, which are mental health challenges.   

All schools should have strong mental health programs since mental health is a large problem that is affecting so many kids. Your emotional, psychological, and social well-being is your mental health. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. In high school, we’re stepping into new independence and forming new relationships, and it can be very challenging.

 Everyone deals with mental health, which can affect your usual ways of thinking, feeling, behaviors, and daily life. 

“A lot of the students do feel like there could be more done or more support,” mental health counselor Alan Chen said. 

The high school has recently had more mental health counselors join us. Three years ago, there were only guidance counselors that students could talk to, but now there are three social workers and nine mental health-based counselors in the building. This is very beneficial because now there is a larger support system for students.

Academics are extremely important in schools, but not having the right mental state can heavily affect how you are in a school setting and how engaged you are with your classes. 

“Yes focus on academics, obviously, but give academics and mental health the same respect,” said sophomore Hailey Jost. 

She continued to talk about how it isn’t fair that staff preach about academics when interruptions occur. For example, kids zone out or have panic attacks in class, but often those come from things either the teacher is doing or things from home. And even though teachers hold this knowledge, they do not do anything to try and help. 

“I think I might trust talking to two of my teachers this year about anything mental health-related,” she said. 

Jost added that she feels there are more teachers who don’t care than those that do.

It is very important to make sure we are prepared for the next step in our lives, but it is also good to live in the now. 

“Sometimes I think public school focuses so much on getting you guys to your adulthood and we don’t focus on fostering and enjoying your childhood enough,” Jaclyn Carson, school mental health counselor said. 

She then spoke about how if we could do more of figuring out who we are as a person while growing into adulthood, kids would understand themselves better and behave in better-mannered ways.

Chen, another school mental health counselor, input that he heard a lot of students saying that school isn’t fun this year, and he thinks that one of the problems is that we have no sense of community here at school. 

“Everybody is in their own world or group that there’s not really a sense of community or commodity in school,” he said. 

Carson and Chen think that if we could just have a day where everyone could just interact with each other and get out of their molds, our sense of community would be better. We have social activities at school, but if we could do something during a school day that would get everyone involved, it would be great.

“I feel like something during the school day,” Carson said, since after school, people have work, and some may be too shy to attend. 

Having days where the school just stops and we all do something fun would increase our desire to come here, Carson thinks. 

“I feel like it would be a lot less trouble,” sophomore Atreyu Carter said.

Just having mental health days at school where we would be involved in different discussions throughout the day could be beneficial. Maybe even having a mandatory mental health class that everyone could take. Carson says that this would teach us how to manage things easier.

She even thinks that working with the community at large would help mental health at school.

“I think that’s a powerful thing about Norristown, is how interconnected you guys all are, but it could also be a barrier to success,” Carson said.

A lot of people are closely knit in Norristown, but if we don’t use our connection to benefit each other, then we could all just falter as a community.

The hard part is trying to balance mental health and academics.

“We need to find ways to integrate mental health,” Carson said. We could take fun breaks every other 20 minutes of class to try and get mental breaks in our day.  

“So academics and mental health can go hand in hand.” 

If we could find little ways the implement mental breaks for students, the school environment overall would be better and kids would feel more at ease, making their school days better.

The mental health of the students at Norristown is something the school will have to focus on next year.