The month of September is nationally known as Suicide Prevention Month. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens. Many of those suffer from a mental illness. Students at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School are affected by mental illnesses.
According to the American Psychological Association, various factors can trigger a mental illness, especially if you already have traces of it within your genetic code.
“I would be sad all the time, tired, couldn’t sleep,” said Nelson Mayhall*. “I would get really angry for things that I shouldn’t have gotten angry about. In February I went to my counselor finally and said, ‘enough is enough. I have to tell someone that I think I’m suffering from depression.’ A lot of people in my family have suffered from it, so I know the signs and the whole time it would come in my head, ‘is this depression or am I just sad? Am I just stressed?’”
Any situation that leaves someone feeling overwhelmed, alone, or fearful can lead to trauma, if not properly handled, according to the Help Guide, a nonprofit that advocates for mental illnesses. A divorce between parents is one example of trauma that can affect children. Carmelita Renwick’s* parents’ divorce left her feelings she did not know how to process.
“My mom didn’t tell me how to process these feelings,” said Renwick*. “It didn’t feel like normal sadness. I would look at social media and see that there were people feeling like I did, but they were doing very unhealthy outlets of letting go of that pain and anger. I just started doing what I saw. I perceived [self-harming] as feeling good because other people posted about it. I started cutting myself. I wouldn’t eat. I would sleep all day. I wouldn’t do my homework. I went from an A student to getting three C’s in sixth grade. My mom wouldn’t understand.”
According to a survey conducted by KMC journalism of 171 students, 43.9 percent of students surveyed suffer from a mental illness (e.g. Depression, anxiety, PTSD) yet 21.6 percent do not seek help or receive treatment.
“When people don’t want to seek help I think it’s because they are embarrassed or afraid of what other people are going to say, said Mayhall*. “Maybe they don’t think it’s real. When I first started noticing it I was in denial. I was thinking, ‘This isn’t depression. It’s just me being tired.’”
Father Curtis Hecker says that in order to deal with mental illnesses, you first have to acknowledge it.
“Mental illness lives and thrives in an environment of isolation,” said Fr. Curtis. “When you leave it in isolation and you tell yourself, ‘No one can help me,’ ‘I’m on my own,’ and you kind of suppress it and hide it and put it into a corner. That’s exactly the environment that it thrives in. it’s like trying to drown a fish. You can’t drown a fish in water because that’s where it lives. That’s the environment it thrives in. If you want to [suffocate] a fish, you have to take it out of the water. If you want to address mental illness, you can’t leave it in the environment of isolation and loneliness it has to be brought out to where you can suffocate it.”
Discussing mental illnesses is taboo across many different cultures, which leads to a lack of knowledge of mental health and the appropriate ways to deal with it.
“I did grow up with the stigma around there’s no cause for mental illness, that it’s not really a thing,” said Renwick*. “That [reasoning] made it worse [for me]. Coming from a minority family we kind of put off the idea of mental illness. It’s [mistaken for] hardships. There’s a whole stigma around [mental illness] culturally. For me, I’m scared to open up to my family about it.”
Some students think KMC does not do enough for students that are struggling mentally. Tristan Lee* says rules should be lenient in certain circumstances.
“I don’t really think [KMC] does enough,” said Lee*. “For me to go and get blood draws and stuff like that [in order] to get the right medication that would help me really gets in the way because I can only [have 8 absences] and most of the time doctors are completely full.”
Renwick* thinks KMC puts too much stress on students without giving them any type of outlet.
“I feel like we’re just really pressured of the idea of ‘excellence’,” said Renwick*. “We’re trained to be excellent. I think it’s kind of dangerous to want us to strive for excellence without a certain way to express all of the stress we go through by playing sports [or] doing choir; you have to keep your grades up. We’re too dependent on our image. Not a lot of kids know how to process their emotions. It would be good to let students know that there are others who struggle in all ways.”
Counselor Thomas Angelo says that KMC is trying to promote mental wellness through different programs and future opportunities.
“The CAP program was just one step in providing students with a built-in group of peers and a faculty member they could approach at anytime with their concerns,” said Angelo. “Now, we are trying to build networks among teachers and students to make sure anyone dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and so on feel like school is a safe place and they have both friends and adults to talk to.”
*names to changed to protect identity