Mental illness, a fight for many

Madison Doran

Mental illness is more common than people think and tends to be very intricate. Most times people fabricate their reality to make everyone oblivious to their underlying issues. 

In high school, some of the biggest mental struggles are centered around grades, acceptance and identity. All three of these things lead to anxiety, depression, stress and so on. 

Methods of relieving some of the pressure of these stressors differ between each individual based on their home life, peer group and personality. 

“You need to find something you like that has nothing to do with the root problem and do that when things get rough,” said Jason Fogleman, the district’s school resource officer.

Some examples of stress-relieving activities are reading, art, exercising, playing or listening to music–anything that makes you feel safe and takes your mind away from the problems. While these cannot change or get rid of people’s stressors, they can help ease them. 

“Unfortunately, even our ‘go-to’ strategy doesn’t always do the trick,” said guidance counselor, Kelly Simmons. “This is similar to taking out a hammer of a toolbox and expecting it to fix every part of a project. Sometimes you need a screwdriver; sometimes you need a wrench. The same concept applies to our mental health.”

People should develop multiple different coping strategies, so they can use a different strategy if one isn’t working, Simmons added. Knowing your triggers can also help with determining when and what strategies to use. 

Assistant principal Julie Taylor, added that talking about your issues, being organized, slowing down, taking breaks, making sure you are sleeping, and staying off your phone at times, are all ways you can relieve some of the mental struggles.

Although it is not a popular strategy, staying off of social media can have a positive impact. Sometimes people do not realize how addicting and draining social media can be.

Fogleman and Simmons said, signs that someone is struggling can sometimes be hard to read. Two common signs are drastic mood swings (this can mean a lot of different things) and becoming more withdrawn from people or things they normally enjoy being around or doing. Another is interacting less than they usually would and preferring to stay home. Others include eating or drinking more or less, dramatic change in types of conversations (talking or writing about unusual/dark topics) and just seeming “off.” 

Being tired more often and a negative change in grades are other warning signs, added Simmons.

“Many times people hide their pain, and when they are in public everything seems great, but it’s when they are alone that the problem comes out,” Fogleman said.

That type of person is sometimes very difficult to help, he added. It usually takes a close family member or friend to realize this and get them to talk.

“Getting to know that person, patience and persistence, are definitely keys to helping someone grapple with an issue that they may not want to admit to,” Simmons said.

Pullquote Photo

Many times people hide their pain, and when they are in public everything seems great, but it’s when they are alone that the problem comes out”

— Jason Fogleman

“Many times just letting people talk or vent about the problem is a huge help and breakthrough,” Fogleman said. “But sometimes I have to go another step and get that person to a mental health facility for their own protection.”

Fogleman does not always have a set plan for how he will approach a person with anxiety or depression. He said it depends if it is a person he knows well or if it is someone he is talking to for the first time. 

“I like to joke around, so if I get the feeling that being goofy will help lighten the moment and get the person relaxed to talk, I go that route,” Fogleman said. 

Sometimes he goes in as a fatherly figure, friend, and sometimes he just has to sit and wait for the person to decide what to say and when to say it, he explained. If he cannot connect with the person after trying different approaches, Fogleman said he may bring in someone else to help. 

“I always talk with students about having a ‘toolbox’ of healthy coping strategies that can help ease moments of high emotions related to stress/anxiety/depressive modes,” Simmons said.

Talking about problems is not always easy, but sometimes you have to go through that uncomfortable feeling in order to progress and start getting better. 

“It’s easier for me to help when I can understand a little bit about what a person is struggling with,” Simmons said. What she means is that even though there are basic concepts of what people are dealing with (such as anxiety or depression), those symptoms “manifest” in different ways and can be “individualized.”

Other ways to emotionally release, include yelling or even hitting a punching bag. No one is limited to one specific way. 

“Finding those healthy releases can help even out thoughts and feelings,” Simmons said.

COVID fears and restrictions have increased people’s mental struggles this year. 

“The department’s calls for welfare checks on people have probably tripled from years past,” Fogleman said.

Simmons agreed and said, “There is a high level of stress and anxiety with the unknown and with continuous changes in society.”