Author: Jeannie Vega, Pima Community College
Dear Vail School District,
My name is Jeannie Vega and I attended three out of my four years of high school in this district. I even graduated from Andrada just this past year. I, as well as many of my peers, have struggled throughout high school. The workload is overwhelming, and that combined with difficult work environments and issues with peers, school can become a nightmare. I myself struggled with severe anxiety and depression throughout my high school career and that made things a lot more difficult. I want to help be a part of a positive change in schools. Mental health is something that isn’t focused on enough when it comes to students. We are told by parents, teachers, and even counselors that we are just “tired” or “stressed”. Those are, of course, two feelings common to most teens, but sometimes those feelings are something much deeper.
When people have a good mental state, things are done faster and better. With mental illnesses like depression, there is a lack of motivation, which may cause students to struggle to turn in assignments on time and therefore grades can slip very quickly. The high school years can be a scary time for anybody. There can be a lot of work all at one time and you are taking six to seven classes at a time plus homework, and some students have to have a job as well. This would stress anybody out, and it can make people with mental illnesses struggle further.
As a former high school student, I have some suggestions of things that would have made me feel more comfortable. I think some type of “safe space” would be helpful, somewhere for students to just relax and take a moment of peace and quiet. Sometimes the noise and busyness of hallways can be almost too much for some students. Speaking from experience of how I calmed my anxieties outside of school, I try to take myself away from all the busyness, so it might be helpful for others. Even at work sometimes, my coworkers or I will go take a quick break to the crew room to maybe grab a drink, or just to collect ourselves. Just a couple of minutes can really help.
I think clubs could be very helpful, a place where students could share how they are feeling and be able to receive support from fellow students and even teachers. I learned that educating people is one of the best things to do. Some people truly do not understand mental illnesses and behavioral issues, so we need to advocate in a positive way. Teachers or counselors could send home informative emails or have meetings with parents. Figuring out how to tell my parents that I wasn’t just “moody” or “just being a teen”, was a challenge. They had never really experienced mental illnesses themselves so they didn’t fully comprehend it. It was not their fault, and once the situation was better explained, everyone was happier and doing a lot better. I have a feeling that it would be the same way for other students if we could go through the schools to advocate for some kids and even just be able to better educate the faculty so every classroom can feel safe and help improve the overall school when it comes to the students’ wellbeing.
This is an issue that I am very passionate about because I have lived it myself. I felt alone at some points and I struggled in school. I didn’t feel that I had anyone to talk to or anywhere to go. I don’t want anyone else to feel like that. Teenagers are facing a lot of pressure to choose a college, a career, and then trying to figure out how to pay for college, all while maintaining good enough grades to get into a college. Sometimes all that anyone needs is just a quiet break or someone to vent to. This has to change. We are the future of our country and we need to all support each other and help everyone be the best person they can be.