By Steven Park
Numerous students across the globe, primarily concentrated in Asia, commit suicide as a result of poor mental health. Despite the staggering numbers, schools continue to avoid discussing the topic openly with their students.
Although it is a heavy topic, the severity of mental health must be addressed so that students are aware of when they must seek help. Especially in Asia, academic success is heavily stressed upon the younger population, resulting in an extremely high number of annual suicides. Korea, Japan, and China are leading countries in terms of suicide statistics according to sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and part of the reason is because nobody talks about mental health with the students. Apart from academic stress, many students may decide to end their lives as a result of bullying which is a problem that swarms schools world-wide. Of course, there are many “anti-bullying” posters in schools but rarely ever one regarding the mental well-being of students.
In ICSU, bullying is strictly prohibited and there are a variety of different disciplinary actions in response to bullying. However, during my six years at ICSU, I have seen minimal discussion revolving around mental health. Recent chapels have covered the idea of anxiety but it barely skims the surface of how serious a student’s mental health really is. Some students load their schedules with multiple APs in one academic year in hopes of a good future and the effects this heavy course load has on the students are evident. Not only that, there were and may still be students that are suffering from other mental health issues unrelated to academics and are afraid to talk to someone.
Many of these students experiencing such problems tend to believe that what they are dealing with is “normal” or “not a big deal” but the reality is these problems have a possibility of escalating tremendously. Self-harm, isolating oneself, and not sleeping are all effects of deteriorating mental health. Eventually, suicide may be the end result. Therefore, ICSU and other schools should emphasize the importance of seeking help when dealing with such problems. These students should be ensured that they will not be judged and their problems will remain a secret so they feel comfortable speaking about it.
Although ICSU doesn’t have a designated counselor, many students have chosen to speak with the music teacher, Ms. Lockman, about what they are experiencing and she is more than happy to sit down to talk with them. When asked about how she feels, Ms. Lockman says, “I believe that mental health is not only an integral part of life, it should be an integral part of education. In recent times, there have been moves towards adding mental health as a component of overall health classes, and I think this is a great first step towards educating the youth about an incredibly important topic; however, the stigma surrounding this is still rather poor, despite the major steps that have been taken to change that, and so being being continually educated on the topic is just as, if not more important than core subjects. If your mental state is not in a positive place, how can any amount of learning actually result in long-term success?
To discuss her role as a teacher and an unofficial counsellor she says, “Part of being an educator is also being available and open for students to be able to share when they’re struggling or even just being available for questions and talking. Though we, as teachers, may not always have the answers, it’s crucial to students to be there, willing to listen, with an unbiased and non-judgemental disposition. Also, students can sense whether an adult is “available” (mentally, emotionally) or not, so it’s important not just to “be there” and hear, but to actually absorb and truly listen to what is being said. Youth that are taught to be aware of their mental state and learn healthy ways to deal with stress, anxiety and a multitude of other factors, will ultimately be the most successful and the most happy and balanced in life. Mental health cannot be ignored.”
The truth is, sometimes things will not get better, which is why sometimes, if you are dealing with problems that negatively affect your mental health, you should seek help. A trusted adult, a friend, or a teacher are all viable options. There is nothing wrong with dealing with academic stress or being upset due to other problems/issues and this should be stressed to the point where students feel comfortable speaking with someone about their problems.
In your darkest days when you feel you no longer can’t deal with what’s happening around you, Philippians 4:13 reminds you that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”