The Facade: An Opinion on the Mental Health of the Student Body

 Today’s students face many problems and stressors, both related to school and from other sources. Some claim that the modern era is the hardest time to be a teen in history. Many studies have been conducted inquiring the mental and emotional states of individuals, the health of their relationships, worldviews and outlooks, and other factors. However, those same studies have not been repeated on the scale of the entire student body, where the target is to characterize the emotional/mental state and general attitude of the student body itself, not just its constituent individuals. The student body, as a whole, needs to be analyzed because it is the top of the pyramid; the first level that people who want to make changes start at. Armed with the knowledge of general perception, faculties, parents and indeed students themselves, can begin the process of making changes and fixing the toxic environment that is high school.

 

The idea to write this article occured to me whilst driving home from school one day. I had just had a conversation earlier in the day with some classmates of mine, talking about the attitude of our grade. It occured to me that this wasn’t the first time I had had this kind of conversation with people, and it also wasn’t the first time that the products of the conversation had scared me. According to these classmates, everyone around them was faking themselves, creating an image and maintaining relationships as part of a grand facade. This facade is the malevolent governing force of the mental/emotional state and attitude of the student body. This facade exists to appease: the faculty, parents and students themselves are duped into thinking the high school environment and attitude is socially, mentally and emotionally healthy and sustainable. These facades are localized and different in every school; each individual student body develops and curates their own. My classmates acknowledged the existence of this facade, as well as their, and their friends’, active participation in it. The conversation had been disheartening, to say the least, up to this point.

 

I was curious to see what lay under this facade. I introduced into the conversation my own idea: that underneath this complex, meticulously maintained facade that existed, people generally wanted the best for eachother and wanted to see their fellow classmates succeed and be happy.

Encouragingly, my classmates seemed to agree. Then, I thought: If this underlying idea exists, how can we promote it and improve the mental health of the student body, instead of needing a facade to hide how dysfunctional and broken it is? The data gathered from the survey is intended to create an image of the average student, the chief architect of this facade, and educate faculty, parents and students as to how they can help them.

 

The survey was short and concise: it was made up of five questions (three multiple choice, two short answer) and took approximately five to ten minutes to complete. It was advertised through Thunderbolt social media accounts as well as my own and the accounts of several of my peers. The survey was open to all high school students, and was completed by 62 people, 44 of them Mills students. The results are as follows:

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#1 Characterize the mental/emotional state of the student body using three words.

 

Can be stressed

Bored, hopeful, okay

overworked, desensitized,

Stressed, overworked, focused

Loud angst stressed

dissapointed uncanny stressed

Very very tired

toxic self-destructive pressure

Not that good

Terrible bad poor

depressing competitve fake

Stressed, motivated, exhausted

trying but dying lol

Way too numb

stressed overwhelmed scared

stressed, upset and sad

Stressed, tired, frustrated

Decent for now

stress relieved progress

Faking their depression

stressed, unhappy, focused

Okay I guess

Depressed, stressed, why me

Stressed and depressed

Stressed, hopeful. Confused

Hanging in there

Mixed

Stressed Depressed unhappy

Lethargic yet euphoric at times, and academically-driven

Stressed, emotional, unmotivated

stressed, anxious, tired

dramatic fun stressed

Varied, diverse, nuanced

Drained, Spirited, and Careless

stressed, overwhelmed, tired

Stressed, overwhelmed, depressed?

I am stable

Healthy stable happy

Very stressed out

Overworked stressed tired

Stressed depressed sad

Depressed, stressed, tired

Stressed, overwhelmed, full

Tense, separated, mean

Everyone seems depressed

tired drained woke

Emotional stress everyday

Happy, stressed, spirited

Stressed competitive tired

Stressed, Depressed, Tilted

Neutral, sad, mad

Tired.

Weird, cringe, awkward

More stressed than they should be, less collaborative than it could be

Lots of emotions

stressed confused depressed

#5 Short answer: What can fellow students and the schools do to help improve the general mental/emotional state of the student body?

 

Be encouraging and supportive

Get teachers to be encouraging and let their children know that they are there for them. Paying teachers more would def help this

Students can stop talking about their grades so much. It’s become a competition between individuals about how LITTLE sleep they get and between who did better on a test that assessed personal skill level. It’s ridiculous to see how much it drains students and puts down those who have different skills levels.

Provide less homework

Create a more flexible homework system or policy

make the rallys not horrible, improve the food, and more importantly improve a better system to make up work have recorded lectures and posted slides this is especially important for those that have sports and have to leave important classes for events

Allow more free thought at an earlier age

Decrease pressure on academic success through long-term campaigns which promote individual improvement and performance rather than success over competition

Talk it out and be open about their emotions; don’t repress them

Less homework please

less pressure to get good grades… or less tests.. better teachers… less hw

A quiet room to sleep in for power naps could help cognitive function

Don’t pack so much homework in, students take 5, 6, 7 classes as well as athletics and it’s not fair when one teacher gives you a huge workload. Your class is sometimes not a priority, there are many other things to worry about than a busy work packet.

Mental health days/classes. Counselors should reach out to students more

Stop makinh everything a competition and discuds things other than your grades.

have more assemblys or advertise help for talking about problems

Make school days shorter, less hmwk so we have more time to live life and extra curricular activities. Personally I could use this because every day it’s wake up at 5, go to football weightlifting, school till 3, sports till 6 or 7:30, eat, shower, homework, sleep at around 11:30 and most of the time a don’t even finish my homework. At this point, I don’t even want to go to school anymore because I don’t enjoy it at all.

Having less busy work assigned

Students can think before the say something an be sensitve of other people’s emotions, as well find a way to build confidence within each other; expressing a positive vibe.

Give less homework

Give less homework, start later so we can get more sleep, not let everyone take 5 APs

Talk

?

be aware

Not give us standardized testing at the most stressful time of the year. More talks about different paths you can take after highschool. Doing successful in school isn’t the only way to be successful in life

Less hw, more events

No homework

Reduce all homework per class to 5 hours per week. Scale difficulty of A.P. courses. More rallies.

Changing their mindset? Competitiveness, the environment change

work around students’ needs; having teachers work with each other to create a balanced schedule so students are less stressed and tired throughout the week

admin less strict

Be more open about mental health

Less homework, no cap

promote that its okay to not be in school or doing well in school bc of mental health

Find a way to educate not only students, but the admin and teachers as well that mental health is a big issue, especially in this generation and growing up in a community where it’s very toxic and competitive; it’s not just something you can put a band aid over and hope it heals which is the thing many wellness counselors at school don’t even understand. I get that it’s a very difficult concept to understand and has such a big stigma around it but, attempting to teach something is better than nothing.

Open up more, and try to include everyone

Provide more opportunities that allow students to relax

Work together and potentially solve any diffences/hatred towards one another to help each other achieve their goal/succeed

lighten the workload, make school less about competition and pressure

Keep supporting others and keeping mental health talks up.

In order to improve the general mental/emotional state of the student body, there should be more of a push for people to take mental health seriously. Although we try to claim support for mental health, I feel that the general student body sees the subject as taboo and or humorous which is not okay.

End bullying, teach out to your peers when you see something wrong, don’t be a snake, create student run group therapy

Don’t be rude to people because they have their own **** going on at home and don’t need you coming at them

less stress on students, a better understanding when homework isnt completed due to personal issues, and more awareness about how important sleep is

Talk to someone who cares about them

Provide more help to address students who aren’t in the right mental/emotional state

People mostly stress about their grades in our student body, so maybe just ease off on the work load

Honestly. Everyone has their own problems. Those people hopefully have friends and family that support them. If you see people that need help find some students to help, it would really benefit them. Students shouldn’t be toxic to other students, they don’t know their mental/emotional state.

By talking about it, not hiding about what they are feeling!

Stop making everything a challenge

Make some stuff more towards having to interact with other people and form connections idk

Celebrate each other’s accomplishments instead of diminish them, be jealous of them, or laugh at them.

Make the students truly feel loved and cared for. Not using bullshit methods, but truly being genuine

talk about mental health and how to improve it when you are under pressure/stressed or in certain situations

 

As aforementioned, the survey was open to ALL high school students, not just those at Mills. The 18 non-Mills replies came from the following sources:

 

Amount of Responses Location
2 Aragon HS
1 Burlingame HS
5 Capuchino HS
1 Dalton HS, Dalton, GA
1 El Camino HS
1 Hillsdale HS
1 Pioneer HS, San Jose, CA
1 Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco, CA
1 Skyline College
1 St. Pius X Catholic HS, Atlanta, GA
1 University of Nevada, Reno
1 University of Washington
1 York Community HS, Elmhurst, IL

 

I’d like to personally thank everyone who helped advertise the survey on their own personal  social media pages. You are all the reason the sample size was as large as it was, and the reason why this data is so useful.

 

I’d also like to thank everyone who participated in the survey. Thank you for being honest and clear in your responses. Your answers will help people understand the issue, and will ultimately help dismantle the facade and improve our collective experience.

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The results of the survey tie back to the facade in different ways. The first question was designed to poll general attitude; not on their own attitudes, but their perception of the attitudes of others. This gives an idea of the average student behind the facade: they’re stressed, overwhelmed and tired. This is in blatant contradiction of what we make ourselves out to be: honest and hardworking, but also social and happy.

 

The second question was designed to narrow down the criteria of the first: instead of asking about the state of the student body overall, it asked about the state of the average individual. According to this question, the average student’s emotional state is neutral (according to the plurality) or sad (according to the second largest answer group). This implies the mood of the average student is, more often than not, negative.

 

The third questions intent was to quantify the general student opinion on the actuality, honesty and integrity (in common slang, the “reality”) of the actions of their peers. The data establishes that the majority feels that the average student is “fake” to some degree; implying that the average student is inherently distrustful of the actions of their peers.

 

The purpose of the fourth question was to see how many people agreed with my idea, outlined earlier. The data implies that the average student believes there is a unified desire to see their peers succeed and be happy.

 

The purpose of the fifth question was to see what students think the solutions to their problems might be, and how to implement them. They include suggestions to change homework policy, counselors, attitudes towards advanced classes, and more. This shows the average student has many ideas about potential changes at school.

 

This data needs to be taken seriously, but it also needs to be understood for its size and scope. This data is by no means representative of the entire high school student body of the US; this data is only representative of the people who answered the survey. The “average student” image is created with data from this survey, and doesn’t represent the average American high school student. This survey only provides a minute peek behind the local facade (the one produced by Mills students), and an even smaller look at facades in other places. This understanding is necessary to completely grasp the data and its significance.

 

This facade is the reason why the average student’s condition is so worrying. At the end of the day, the facade’s function of throwing off parents and faculty is only secondary. It’s primary purpose is to trick the students themselves, to make them believe that everything is okay, when the opposite is true. The most basic fault in these students is their misplaced attachment to this facade, the manufactured responsibility they feel to maintain it. In reality, this facade causes only pain and sadness: this is because the student becomes conditioned to basing their school and social experiences of of the false pretenses the facade provides. When those pretenses collapse, so do the school and social experiences. Removing the facade removes these false pretenses, leaving only the plentiful, trustworthy and sturdy pretenses of reality for students to build upon. In short, removing the facade makes the ideal situation, the one where everything is actually okay, achievable.

 

Students are told time and again that they are the future, the personification of the enormous investment of time, effort and passion of the previous generations into our collective prosperity for the times yet to come. The corroboration of the answers from these questions paints a sobering picture of the average student: they’re stressed, exhausted and inherently distrustful, but have ideas of how to fix the problems of their school and want to see their peers succeed.  Every effort should be made to encourage this student, improve their attitude, and regain their trust. These efforts should be considered as absolutely imperative.

 

The first step in targeting the facade is understanding its creator. If students, faculty and parents are not actively trying to do so, the attitude of the average student will only continue to deteriorate, and the facade will only grow more intricate and complex. The enormous investment of our forefathers will have all been for nothing, and our future will be in serious jeopardy.

 

The obligation to understand the students, and protect our future, has been placed squarely on our shoulders. It is time we fulfill it.

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