Young woman standing in front of a brick wall covering her face with a book

‘When Life Hits Like a Whip’: Students Try to Deal With Mental Health Themselves But Want More Support

Young woman standing in front of a brick wall covering her face with a book

When teens are stressed, sometimes they deal with it on their own, sometimes they turn to friends for support, and sometimes, they want the adults in their lives to listen. (Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash)

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Commentary, Various Authors

Editor’s note: We asked Kennedy High School students to tell us how they deal with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and what schools and parents could do to increase mental wellness in teens. This is what they had to say. Their responses have been edited.

Content warning: This piece contains brief references to suicidal ideation.

I am coping pretty fine for now. It’s not something that’s really getting to me that much because I usually sleep it off. I have social anxiety, and I haven’t made many friends because of it. I’d say start by giving kids money. I would use the money for my personal needs like going to the movies and doing stuff that I liked.

— Mariana Cook, 16

Dealing with mental health issues isn’t easy. However, we all have our own ways to deal with it. I usually spend time with people I’m more comfortable with. Being around others I want to be around helps a lot, especially with moral support or just comfort. How schools should help increase mental health wellness in teens is by giving us areas where we could help each other. Not everyone will be comfortable with an adult, but they might be with a trusted student their age.

>>>Read: Why Aren’t Families Eating Together? Too Much Work

— Diana Nguyen, 17

I deal with mental health issues by talking to others about my feelings and finding time in my day for myself. These methods are the most comfortable and what is available. Schools and parents can increase mental health wellness in teens by doing their own research plus finding understanding. It is best if schools and parents become aware of these issues. Then, they can try to help teens in their own understanding of their mental health. It is hard to fully understand someone else’s own mental health issues, so providing any type of person who can listen to the person/teen.

— Janet Madison, 16

My fear of death without having lived is bigger than my desire to kill myself. I try to stay focused on things that matter when life hits like a whip. I play my guitar; I read some books and try to keep breathing. There is no key or secret to deal with pain, but if you can endure the pain and walk away, from there, you can get a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. The thing about life is that when we lose the light and way to keep going, there is always a new and a better option. We need to have the courage to live rather than to kill ourselves. There are so many reasons to keep breathing.

— Bradley Cauich, 17

>>>Read: Finding Light in the Darkness of Depression

I’m dealing OK with my mental health. It is under control for now. I think school can contribute to [struggles] for some people because of work and assignments and stuff that can put pressure on someone. Teachers could too by being strict or mean. For me, though, it’s all OK, and I can deal with it myself for now.

— Andrea Ochoa, 15

Schools and parents can increase mental health awareness by creating a safe, private space for students. Students should be able to share their feelings, thoughts and emotions with somebody they trust, and that information should be kept confidential. It shouldn’t be shared with parents because the student could lose that trust and might not seek out help in fear all the information will be shared. It would also be nice if schools maybe provided therapy.

— Lourdes Mendoza, 15

How I deal with depression and anxiety is, I don’t. Most of the time, it overcomes me, and I don’t know what to do. I just feel stuck. With depression, I would say I’ve been doing the best I have in a long time. Although I do feel happy most of the time, there’s still that part of me that’s dragging me down and making me feel the way I don’t want to feel. Last year, I had to go to therapy for anxiety and depression. To be honest, it did help a bit. My anxiety in school has lessened throughout the months, but it becomes really bad once I feel self-conscious about myself or my surroundings. I’ve just learnt to deal with it and to not really depend on anyone to make it go away because someone isn’t always going to be with me.

Schools and parents can increase mental health wellness in teens by just putting it out there and believing whatever the teens say they feel. A lot of parents might not believe their kids, and schools don’t really talk about it.

— Kayla Vidal, 15

I am dealing with it kind of bad but getting better over time. I have depression and some other mental health issues, but it isn’t really all that bad. I will be good in some time for sure. [Parents and teachers] can just have small talks with [teens] more often. I know not all teachers are like this, but I had a teacher before I changed all my classes that was heartless. She had no pity for anyone in the class. I told her I wasn’t feeling very well, and she just didn’t care, If teachers tried to be more fun or at least not yell at kids for no reason when they don’t know what that kid could be going through — if these “teachers” didn’t exist, the students would be way happier.

— Eric Ronquillo, 16

>>>Read: Adults Should Build Kids Up, So Bullies Can’t Tear Them Down

Schools should have a place where students can go to talk to people, like a wellness center, for example. I think having therapists on campus is a good idea as well. It’s important to hire good people for these jobs because if someone is too harsh, it could be hard for a student to open up to them. Parents could try to be more understanding towards their kids. I think a lot of parents put pressure on their kids and don’t understand how hard it is for them to meet their expectations. I feel like parents should try to educate themselves more on mental health issues and talk to their children about their mental health.

— Iyana Lopez, 15

I feel like schools can help increase mental health wellness in teens by ensuring positivity and helping provide a safe school environment for all students. They can also help by having something for students like mental health support. Parents can help increase mental health wellness in teens by understanding how they may feel sometimes and actually being there for them, giving supportive advice. If they build their communication, it can lead to a good thing. Or they can have regular check-ins and just make sure everything is OK, just letting them know that they are there for them.

— Asia Belcher, 15

>>>Read: As Pandemic Worsens Students’ Mental Health, WCCUSD Tries to Keep Up

Recently, my depression has gotten really bad, and let’s not talk about my anxiety. I have been feeling sad lately. I feel like crying most of the time out of nowhere. I feel unconfident sometimes because I look at how pretty and skinny girls at my school are. And let’s not talk about how our school treats [certain] sports. They are not supported. Sports like volleyball and soccer do not get new uniforms. The school only focuses on basketball, football and track. It’s unfair that not all the teams are equal.

Parents don’t fully understand what teens go through. To them, we are just going through phases. Parents don’t listen to their kids about how they feel or how they are. Parents focus on our grades and how we do bad stuff, but where’s the support when we do good stuff or we achieve something. Parents should focus more on our well-being and pay attention to us because when we grow up they’re going to wish they had more time with us. We grow up, and we are going to want to be the parents that we wished we had when we were younger.

— Mariana Zavala, 17

My mental state is like a revolving door throughout the day. One second, I feel like being productive and getting all work done, and the next second, I come crashing down with my mind filled with past failures and cringey activities I’ve done when I was younger.

One of the biggest things I struggle with is the capacity to think on my own. This makes me feel so insignificant when compared to my older brothers, who’ve done much extracurricular activity and sports and are outgoing and, most of all, sharp-minded. They’ve spent their entire high school years working and socializing. Though I feel insecure about my accomplishment, a good part of that is the result of my oldest brother constantly comparing himself to me. He’s a huge pain in the ass. So much so, anything I do, he bashes. For example, I got an internship this year at a restaurant kitchen, and as soon as I told my brother excitedly, he expressed how it was dumb to get an internship over there and asked why I was even doing it. Which is weird, considering the fact he wanted me to go out more and get some experience.

Another time, this year actually, I landed another internship — at Kaiser! — to see whether or not I wanted a health career. My parents were excited, and so was my other sibling. But again, when I came to my older brother about my acceptance, he belittles me. Maybe if my brother weren’t such a narcissist, then I wouldn’t have this mindset. But he is still my brother, and deep down, he also wants the best for me as he has expressed before. But belittling me is not the key to my situation, nor any situation for that fact.

— Iaiba Shahid, 16

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