By Mylie Alexander*
How is stress affecting my educational experience?
According to an article in the Independent, in the past 25 years mental health issues involving teenagers have increased by 70 per cent.
Ninety three per cent of teachers are reporting that mental illnesses are becoming more common in students and 62 per cent of teachers are supporting students who have mental health issues on a monthly basis.
Almost half of all students struggling with mental health issues said that school stress was one of their major triggers.
How do I know if someone is struggling with mental health issues?
Remember that only a trained professional can diagnose a mental illness, however if you see significant differences in behaviour or personality, mental illness could be a factor.
Research signs and symptoms but remember that everyone is an individual and not everyone experiencing a mental illness will display typical symptoms.
Approach the person directly and ask them if they are experiencing any new and troubling emotions or experiences. However be careful not to accuse the individual of acting differently.
How can I help someone struggling with mental health issues?
Wait for a while to see if the person will approach you to talk, however if this does not happen choose a suitable time and place where there will be no interruptions for your discussion.
Use ‘I’ statements, such as “I have noticed…. and feel concerned’. Using ‘you’ statements could be interpreted as an accusation.
Let the person know you are concerned about them and willing to help.
Respect the person’s interpretations of their symptoms.
Offer consistent emotional support, understanding and hope for recovery.
If they don’t want to talk to you encourage them to talk to someone else.
If the person doesn’t want help ask for specific reasons but respect their right not to seek help unless you feel they are a danger to themselves or others. Let them know that if they change their mind they can contact you for assistance.
How can I help myself?
Don’t ignore symptoms of depression or anxiety. Talk to a trusted teacher, adult or a school councillor.
Physical exercise releases hormones that reduce stress. A walk will help clear your mind.
Make sure you are eating healthily and getting enough sleep.
Partake in activities that can reduce stress. Creative outlets like music, writing or art are useful.
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
Set realistic goals and break down tasks into manageable bites.
Avoid people, places, and things that cause stress. Surround yourself with supportive friends and healthy activities.
If you feel extra help is needed arrange an appointment with your GP or ask your school councillor for a referral to a psychologist.
Make a plan and stick to it
This plan could remind you to study, take breaks, or even to spend with your friends. It can be helpful to break seemingly impossible tasks into manageable ones when planning accordingly and include stress relievers to break up your study time like social interaction, exercise and fun.
*Mylie Alexander is a grade nine student at Clarence High School. This article was written as part of her HPE studies on mental health.