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One Unspoken Global Crisis

Touching on the topic of mental health in secondary school students

Girl, emotionally worn-out.
Image by: Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

It’s my first time on this platform and soaring through the bottomless space of my thoughts, I bumped on a topic I had been reflecting on for a couple of months.

I am a teacher, amongst other things, and don’t shy away from the opportunity to pass across knowledge of any topic I really know. One of which is Mathematics (I used to dread this subject). But although I had taught for few years in my country, upon arriving the UK, with a different educational system, something struck me. This, I had not been conscious about in my native country. I absolutely can’t say why I didn’t perceive it in this manner. Looking back now, I see it’s same, everywhere.

The Christians Bible writes in a particular verse:

If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do.

Being involved in the educational sector, each morning as I go into the classroom, I am faced with beautiful faces but some less interested eyes. This had me wondering. At first, I thought there was a degradation of the value of education, but I was wrong, that’s not it. The kids…

Kids eyes searching for help/Mental Health
Image by: Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

Mental health in school students

The mind of some relatively great percentage of students is wound up in a lot, too much for their cognition to think through and find light. We all know the world is a battle ground - technically speaking, and there would always be ups and downs, but what do you say to a kid on a Monday morning who had gone through the mental torture of facing his/her parents fighting the day before, or one who had to deal with a drunk parent before arriving in school, or a lad living with an abusive guardian… The list goes on. And should I add, the school itself- meant to be a safe haven, had turned to a mini-hell for some kids, with bullies, suppression from classmates with more money, nice bags, phones etc, it’s worthy of mention that some teachers might be so wrapped in focus on getting the lesson instruction stipulated for the day done and dusted and care no less about a student(s) who isn’t even physically present. Drugs, alcohol, gangsterism, the list goes on and on…

Mental health in itself pertains to a varying number of factors, it includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, the totality of how we feel, think and behave NOW, it oscillates in relation to events around us. We all have to deal with it, and much more, at adolescence, where there’s a high-risk factor from peer pressure, self-identity, the socio-economic factor surrounding livelihood, mental cognition and special needs. And as this stage of development is very instrumental in deciding the future beings these kids will be, it is worthwhile to raise the alarm today to parents, caregivers, educational institutions and governments, to avoid a vicious cycle.

In a subject I was covering, I asked students to tell me their perceptions to life, what they thought life was all about. The comments I got back were smart, awesome, brilliantly structured and some requiring query. When a kid would explain that life isn’t fair and there is nothing to live for, that stroke me. As I commented, I had to take time to explain, the good life had to offer, the mystery and unpredictability of life, and the power of our minds in making life much fun and purposeful.

Schools, I could speak for mine, are doing a lot to help the mental state of these young ones, from providing special needs facilitators, call-out teams, inviting guest speakers (celebrities, personal development coaches), to retraining their staffs for this purpose, amongst others. The government isn’t left out, platforms are created to support these kids, policies and programmes inculcating adolescent mental health, phone lines and local programs to participate in, a lot of organisations and institutions input these in their purpose statement and operations, but can we take it a little further as these kids are not always so ready to come out and speak.

You're capable of doing amazing things/Mental Health
Image by: Alysha Rosly on Unsplash

Let’s raise the awareness CONSISTENTLY. Encouraging TV channels to include inspiring programmes, let’s speak more about it in our religious houses, could parents read more about these and find better means to approach their kids, could teachers imbibe inspirational imprints as they teach, encouraging their students to keep on, letting them know they are making a difference, could we imbibe passion into whatever we do, they learn from what they see much more than what they hear, could we please reduce telling them they need help, and provide this “help” in many ways possible, ghosting an obvious input of a pharmacological or methodological psychologist therapy. It goes on and on.

At this moment, the kids are on school breaks. Parents, can you take time to chat with each one of your kids, learn from them and know them based on who they are now – teens, and help them structure their decisions, explaining to them why you think so. Could Schools and Teachers send emails to all their students occasionally, checking up on them, encouraging them to bring forth their absolute best, find themselves and know you root for them. Could TV programs bring in people who have struggled and overcome or overcoming mental health issues to speak on these topics, could social media outlets provide motivational pop ups once in a while rather than several ads, which could be very annoying by the way. These are the places these kids turn to when they wish to shy away from the reality that life is to them.

Boys smiling/ Mental Health
Image by Parker Gibbons on Unsplash

Like was mentioned, this could be a vicious cycle if not combated. Our students will one day grow up to be parents who will raise kids just as they know how to, and a Lion can only birth a being like itself.

The narrative could be changed if we all become aware as parents, siblings, families, teachers, communities to this crisis that could rend the whole of humanity before the aliens even arrive. Let’s start the change, be the change.


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