As students, I’m sure we can all agree that school can take a toll on our mental health. Although we understand that education is an integral part of our lives and can project ourselves to brighter futures, the balance between education and mental health has been offset. Teachers can pile loads upon loads of busy work that end up doing more harm than good. Mary Alvord, a teen psychologist, states that “a little stress and in moderation can be helpful to high schoolers in so many ways. It motivates them to study, to do better. It helps push them.” However, in recent years stress rates for teens have gone up significantly, and we can’t help but wonder: what is causing student stress?
While school strives to set a platform for students to prosper and expand their knowledge in a healthy setting, the stress that has recently taken over a multitude of students’ lives is caused by the notion that they must perform better than others in every aspect of their lives. New programs introduced to the youth of today contribute to this increase of stress among students. Such a program was created by a law under the name of “No Child Left Behind.” This law implemented standardized testing within schools in America in order to measure students’ knowledge from a younger age. The arts and physical education became minimized under this law and were instead replaced by timed tests and more difficult questions. This idea insists that students are to focus strictly on their studies and intelligence rather than their social lives and arts. The law also promotes competition between students through standardized testing. Ranking students implements the mindset that as long as they aren’t at the top, they are inferior as individuals. Besides strict testing for students, the media also poses a threat to the mental stability of teens nowadays. Social media portrays the most idealized versions of what most people’s lives are. When students feel a pressure to conform to the high standards of others, their self confidence deflates. This causes teenagers to feel that they are not good enough or that they need to become someone else in order to fit society’s needs. The idea that students need to perform to their mental and physical best results in the opposite effect when depression and anxiety develop as a result.
You, along with the general public, have probably known of this issue for several years. So why has this problem only gotten worse? The solace we seek in our leaders has always received the responses of “manage your time better” or “talk to your teacher about it,” and frankly, we’re over the inexcusable lack of personal attention to this pressing topic. If we don’t reverse the time bomb that is the pressure on students to perform better than others, then hospital referrals for depression and suicide rates due to anxiety will continue to rise uncontrollably. We demand programs that will not just categorize students into what they can and can’t do, but will instead enhance their knowledge in a healthy environment. We demand political and educational leaders who will have meaningful discussions and take action for the benefit of students. We demand a better system in which students don’t have to consistently feel inferior to others. Only then will we be able to make a better educational system and meet the goals that schools intended to set all along: providing a safe and healthy place for students to reach their full potential, and not the potential of anyone else.