By Juliet Aguilera
High school can be very stressful for students, which could potentially lead to mental health issues. Students have to juggle school, work, friends, sports and family while trying to figure out the future. Depression and anxiety have become more prevalent among students as the school load and other factors in life seem to build up, leaving many without space to breathe.
According to Joel Brown, a reporter for the website Boston University Today, depression and anxiety is at a high risk of affecting students academically.
“21.9 percent of students said that within the last 12 months, anxiety had affected their academic performance,” Brown wrote, “which is defined as receiving a lower grade on an exam or important project, receiving an incomplete, or dropping a course.”
Novato High’s psychology teacher, Jennifer Russell, listed the symptoms of depression and anxiety that impact students.
“You don’t want to do anything, you don’t want to do the things that used to make you happy, you might cry, you might be angry or sad and you don’t know why, tired all the time, you sleep or you don’t sleep,” said Russell. “For anxiety, you have excessive worry, you have fear, spending time thinking about things or thinking bad things are going to happen. You try to take control.”
Novato High School’s psychologist, Arezu Iranipour explains depression and anxiety as internalizing disorders. According to Iranipour, depression is a feeling of sadness for a long period of time and anxiety is the feeling of worry that can be consuming for students.
“In Novato High, one in five students have experienced depression or anxiety in their life,’’ said Iranipour. “There are a lot of students on campus that have symptoms in different levels that are caused by many things. School is a big cause. School can be challenging in the social aspect which affects students. Depression and anxiety can be genetic, which means that they are inherited. Students have a home life situation in which parents aren’t around as much for them.”
Novato High is very proactive when it comes to taking care of student’s mental health.
“Many teachers reach out when the student has been missing a lot of school or they don’t feel well, when they sleep in class or their behavior has changed,” said Russell. “Teachers connect with them and when they worry about a kid they send them to the amazing counseling staff. We also have Marriage and Family Therapist interns, so students can talk to or have counseling with. Depending what causes the depression and anxiety, after school tutors are available if a student is anxious about their studies, needs help and support academically. We work with the Novato Teen Clinic, so students can go to that for treatment and support. We also try to teach students about anxiety and depression in health class.”
Anxiety is common among many students. Alondra Contreras, a junior at Novato High, suffers from high anxiety.
“Well basically I can't really interact with anybody that easily without overthinking the whole situation,” said Contreras. “People may call that ‘being insecure’ but trust me it’s more than that. Anxiety is something that increases by time, and in my experience, I have always been shy.”
Contreras has been dealing with her anxiety for a long time, and it has not gotten easier.
“By the middle of freshman year it got worse,” Contreras added. “When I’m with a group or strangers, I need to be with at least someone I'm comfortable with or else I get an anxiety attack or panic attack. I distance myself from people, not on purpose but my awkwardness makes them uncomfortable. Expressing myself is really hard. Not only do I start stuttering, but I begin getting nerves.Thankfully I've gotten understandable teachers that have let me present after class so it makes it easier for me. It's really hard talking about my anxiety since it's really personal. It's like I have two minds, my anxiety is more dominant.”
Aside from school responsibilities, students have to face many responsibilities. As teens get older, there can be more pressure on their shoulders. This pressure builds up which causes some students to to feel locked in and not able to move. All that stress leads to students facing depression and anxiety that can harm them in many aspects of their life. Some try to control it by taking prescribed medication, like antidepressants. Prescribed medication is used correct the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes changes in moods.