US Education System vs. Mental Health – Who is winning vs. who should win

Jadyn Aling

In the present society, the stigma against mental health rages rampant, and this is clearly present in the US school system. We are constantly taught the importance of maintaining a healthy mind but are simultaneously caught in a web of academic, athletic, social, and societal pressures that create the opposite. 1 in 6 US children aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, so why are we not taking better action to reduce these numbers (NAMI)? It starts in the school system and implements a stronger network of resources that students are not afraid to utilize. The US school system needs to take mental health into deeper consideration in order to allow students a better opportunity to achieve their true potential.

The US education system is not only designed for the American youth to obtain the necessary credits for future endeavors, but is also developed to enhance critical thinking and problem solving; however, “undiagnosed, untreated, or inadequately treated mental illnesses can significantly interfere with a students ability to learn, grow and develop,” (NAMI). Without treatment, an undiagnosed mental health disorder can affect productivity for the rest of your life, which is why early recognition is so important. Nonetheless, it is not always easy to recognize when a student is struggling, especially when their participation in schoolwork is non-indicative. In actuality, many mental health disorders such as anxiety, obsessive compulsion disorder, depression, and eating disorders all contain symptoms of perfectionism, and when displayed in the classroom can reflect that a person seems completely healthy. In America, a stigma has been created to maintain the most advantageous report cards, test scores, and a list of extracurriculars in order to live out the “perfect” life. More than 73% of students do not meet the recommended amount of sleep per night, staying up to complete the never-ending inventory of assignments they have to achieve these academic goals (Healthline). When achieved, the school system only applauds the end result, instead of considering the sacrifices made to get there. Moreover, when a student doesn’t meet specific goals, rarely are they questioned if they are struggling with something that limits their ability to work, but rather are met with ignorance or just simply a second chance- enabling students to suffer in silence. 

Only half of the diagnosed youth receive mental health treatment, which is shocking given the amount of time we spend in school (NAMI). However, only 38% of public schools reported providing mental health services for students (NCES). At Latin, we face a noticeable stigma but are privileged to receive counseling resources that a large percentage of America doesn’t. Stronger federal enforcement is needed to change these statistics and support a reallocation of funding in schools across the country. Not only do schools need to provide resources to students with learning deficits, but more general assistance needs to be accessible. 
The pandemic has also severely impacted the rate of mental health disorders for youth, and nationwide we are not doing enough to reverse these effects. According to the nation’s top physician, Dr. Vivek H. Murphy, “systems of anxiety and depression doubled during the pandemic,” but no extra brace has been provided (The New York Times). Our schools can help ease these effects by allowing students a safe and de-stigmatized community to mitigate a serious risk to our generation as a whole.

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