by Ani Janakiraman ’26
After a test score is released, our first instinct is to ask all our classmates what their scores are and compare our own results. Although at first glance, this may help us analyze our performance compared to our peers, it is certainly not the best for everybody because it can put others down if they did not do as well on the assessment compared to their peers. I am certain that we have all done this sometime this year. This, although seeming quite trivial, causes high levels of stress for teens around our country. An article from Kindbridge Behavioral Health found that research into competition, anxiety, and depression in the classroom found a direct relationship between high levels of competition in classes and depression and anxiety. Students who thought their class was competitive had 37% higher odds of depression and 69% higher odds of anxiety. In the moment, we don’t think we’re doing anything wrong, right? I mean talking about scores doesn’t seem that bad, but we contribute to a vast problem, that doesn’t seem to end.
This article will examine a few critical causes of mental health issues in high school students, and a few solutions to ameliorate any of those problems.
Education is seen by many as a pathway to success. In some ways, I agree; as education is very important for kids to learn about essential concepts and skills that they can apply to their future jobs or whenever necessary, and in fact, shows us the importance of hard work. Parents in America often grind long hours just to make enough to pay for their children’s education and future. Children should always try their absolute best, but where I disagree is when teenagers are defined solely based on grades and in relation to their peers. Kids are often forced into this identity by their parents, and when they don’t live up to certain high expectations, in turn, there are high levels of stress created. High school students usually spend countless hours a day doing homework and focusing on extra-curricular activities, but many families fail to consider or acknowledge the physical, social, and mental toll that this taxing “identity” is. If their children bring up the fact that their mental health is in poor condition, parents usually respond saying “it will get better.” The drive for teens to be perfect in their careers has significantly increased since the 1980s and is taking a toll on mental health. Research from the American Psychological Association found that perfectionism has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and opportunities we miss because we are scared to put out anything in the world that’s imperfect. Knowing that perfectionism is a problem for high school students, are there any solutions?
Well, obviously, there are no immediate solutions to counteract perfectionism, but there are changes to our mindsets that we can make. Firstly, for parents, perhaps talk about public figures who have had problems with perfectionism. For instance, Naomi Osaka, a star tennis player, had long-lasting issues with perfectionism due to the pressure surrounding her. Tell them it is okay to express their emotions openly, not suppress them. Moreover, tell kids what your family values outside of success, like being kind, empathetic, generous, and caring. Encouraging teens to volunteer and giving back to the community will allow them to step back and reflect on their daily lives while helping for a good cause.
For teens and high schoolers: first, try to pause and pay attention to thought patterns. Maybe, write some thoughts down or talk to friends about your struggles. Second, tell yourself that it is completely okay to make mistakes. Making mistakes is part of human nature, and one bad grade will not deter you from reaching your goals in life. Mistakes are opportunities for us to learn, grow, and do better. Here at Bellarmine, we have counselors to help support us. Do not hesitate to contact them when you need help, as they are here to help us!
At the end of the day, mental health for high school students is one of the most pressing issues in our society today. After reading this article, I hope you learned more about what causes high levels of stress in high school students, and together how we can help those who need assistance. Lastly, if you are in pain, know that you are not alone. There are people here to comfort you, whether it be your friends, loved ones, or counselors. It is okay to express your emotions, as it is part of who we are as human beings.
Ani is a writer for the Bell Online. In his free time, he enjoys playing sports with his friends, and covers campus events, clubs, and sports.