Being a high school student is rocky. I think we can all agree on that.
These days, it consists of trying to ace classes while balancing multiple responsibilities, like participation in after-school extracurriculars, sports teams and clubs.
When I was in middle school, no one told me how stressful the transition to high school would be. (And if they did, I didn’t listen.) High school students and college students endure stress on a daily basis, and we’re rarely told to carve time out for our own well-being.
The University of Michigan and Detroit Public Schools Community District conducted a survey of Detroit students from 8th to 12th grade, more than 15,000 students. Around 56% of students reported having symptoms of anxiety, and 62% reported having symptoms of depression. Academic stress was the top mental health concern identified by students, followed by family stress. This prevents many students from performing at their full capacity in school.
I think we should improve access to mental healthcare and services for the treatment of mental health conditions. Successful mental health treatment should combine behavioral and psychological interventions with other medical solutions when appropriate.
Unfortunately, the very people who need treatment often do not have access to these services. And at my Detroit Public Schools Community District high school, access to mental health care isn’t reliable.
That’s a big problem, and it’s not one I can solve.
But a solution we could try right now is to provide students with opportunities for self-care. I’m asking the district to offer students in-school mental health days.
During the first semester of the last school year, my high school offered this kind of day. Students were allowed to come to school in comfortable clothing. The focus was on getting along with our peers, as well as getting to know each other better.
I loved this day, but my school never had another one.
Regularly scheduled mental health days could be virtual, face-to-face or hybrid, and could include something like inspirational speakers students can relate to, meditation and time for students to have school-appropriate fun.
I am calling on DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti and other district administrators to organize and implement a pilot program with the goal of offering at least one mental health day per semester. I strongly encourage parents and families to get involved by contacting Dr. Vitti and other school administrators. By taking better care of ourselves, we can have a less stressful teenage life.
Harmonie Stewart is a high school freshman.
More: These kids have a lot to say. We should listen to them.