Lack of awareness contributes to mental illness stigmas


Emily Dixon

A sign outside Room 162 labels the “Zen Den”, a quiet space during one lunch offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mental illness, most prevalent in young, high school kids, is talked about the least often. The private topic shows itself in many different forms.

According to the World Health Organization, half of all mental health cases start by age 14 and develop into adulthood.

Lack of awareness causes many misconceptions around these illnesses, such as stigmas that they imply weakness, only adults have illnesses, pills will fix them, and even that they do not actually exist.

With the fear of being viewed as weak in their minds, students often do not reach out for help.

“It can be hard to ask for help, but we hope those who need us can find a way to be brave and reach out so we can provide them with support and necessary resources,” said school counselor Leslie Riccio.

Some of the most common disorders include anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, and eating disorders.

Anxiety occurs in about 40 million people and includes much more than just being nervous or shy.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is characterized by uncontrollable worry and panic, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, irritability, trembling, sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of impending doom. 

Depression is also extremely common in adolescents and symptoms include persistent sad or empty mood, loss of interest in activities, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.

Stress at school, social obligations, unstable homes, and bullying all contribute to the development of mental disorders.

“School definitely contributes to mental illness because of the stress it causes with the massive amounts of homework we receive,” said junior Emerson Imbriale.

Abundant mental health resources available include hotlines, websites, guidance counselors, and supportive friends. With these widespread conditions, it is important to raise awareness and destigmatize mental illness.

“We must show empathy, understanding, and remember that we never really know what someone else is going through,” said Riccio.