Coronavirus Opinion

COVID-19 highlights importance of mental health awareness in schools

Gerald Sastra/ The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/ The Cougar

COVID-19 has heavily impacted the mental health of everyone around the world with families separated, unemployment rising and loved ones dying from the virus. 

Here in the United States, COVID-19 has severely impacted the mental health of young people. In fact, research institutes have published data that shows an increase in depression and anxiety among American youth indicating that more needs to be done in solving these urgent issues rather than continuing to ignore and even stigmatize them further. 

I believe that part of the reason why the youth continue to struggle with mental health is because the education system is built on pressuring them, rather than allowing them to grow at their own pace.

Therefore, we must pressure educational institutions to create curriculums that are focused on mental health awareness by letting students enjoy their extracurricular activities and less on punishing them. 

The Pew Research Center reported this year that 33 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 experienced high levels of distress, 28 percent experienced medium levels of distress and 38 percent experienced low levels of distress. 

This shows that in the U.S., the youth population is more prone to mental health illnesses. That is because they are raised in an environment that places limits on their capacity to learn and grow on their own terms. 

The 18-29 age group is supposed to grow their minds naturally without suffering from academic pressure. Therefore, these statistics should be used by education officials whenever schools reopen so they can best determine how students can enjoy school without sacrificing their mental well being.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also published its own worrying statistics about mental health among American youth. For example, they show that three in four kids aged 3to 17 who are diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety, which is 73.8 percent of the age group. 

Also, approximately one in two kids with depression are also diagnosed with behavioral problems, which is 47.2 percent of kids aged three to 17. 

If you are wondering how kids get all these various mental illnesses at such a young age, look at their daily lives in schools. They experience bullying, violence, financial issues, sleeping issues and many more.

Furthermore, that is all topped with unnecessary loads of homework, harsh teachers who grade unfairly and not enough free time to engage in extracurricular activities that could be more informative for them. 

Therefore, mental health must be the number one public health issue after COVID-19 because this is also impacting the U.S. negatively.

COVID-19 is a very sudden and unusual experience for the whole world, which makes mental health awareness extremely important this year as there is increased pressure to work/study from home and being separated from family. 

We must seize this moment as a people and work towards not just returning to normal, but also build a better normal. This includes reforming educational institutions to be more considerate of youth mental health, which can lead to a more vibrant American population and society.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

Abdullah Dowaihy is a political science senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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