Stigma remains on teen mental health days

Walking through the hallways and all eyes are on you. Your skin is crawling, heart racing, throat is tight and nothing seems to be still. The whole world is buzzing around you and there’s nothing you can do to to make it stop even though that’s the only thing you want.

Except, no one is looking at you. The world isn’t spinning but moving in the constant lull it always does. Anybody can see that, you can probably see that, but your perception of reality is tainted with the panic in your mind. So, as a result you go home, you go home to a place you feel safe, isolated, and grounded to reality.

Anxiety is an extremely loaded word. It’s an emotion that everyone feels in some degree whether it’s in anticipation of a test or a first date. However, there are a vast majority of us who feel it a bit more intensely, sometimes to the point where along with medication and therapy, mental health days are a necessity.

“I tend to just shut down when I get too anxious, like I can’t function,” junior Allie Garrett said.

This can be said with a variety of different mental disorders including depression, depersonalization and OCD.  There are days like the one stated before when the chemical imbalance in your mind can make it incredibly hard to function throughout the day, making it hard to stay alert and perform well in school

I get very jittery. Sometimes when I’m writing in class I’ll start thinking about what’s stressing me out and without realizing it I’ll start writing that down. With my mind constantly wondering like that I have a really hard time focusing in class,” Garrett said.

It’s days like these that beg question of why come to school at all? If no productivity is being accomplished and their stability is wavering, is it really beneficial to show up to class?

There’s a stigma surrounding mental health days, making them seem like days of laziness and vacation. However, for many students it’s just the opposite.

“When I stay home, it’s not because I’m going to go party or something. I stay home because I feel awful and if I went to school nothing would get done and my anxiety would get worse,” junior Paighton Salce said.

“It’s a lot of just laying around, sleeping, and trying to calm down. Definitely not enjoyable,” Garrett said.

A lot of people are still under the impression that mental illness is something that you can just “get over” with the right attitude. They fail to realize that mental disorders like anxiety, depression, etc. are brought on by an involuntary chemical imbalance in the brain. Therefore, the uncontrollable pain, confusion, and panic can be incredibly debilitating for the individual experiencing it. This lack of understanding towards these conditions leave many people to make up stories about a stomach bug or fever in order to excuse themselves from a job or school. Unfortunately, their illness wouldn’t be taken seriously otherwise.

“My mom understands,” Salce said. “She sees my medication and knows my diagnosis, so she let’s me stay home. But if I were to call the school and say I’m taking a mental health day due to my anxiety and depression, it just seems like I don’t care.”

It’s no secret that when it comes to addressing mental illness, we as a society has a lot of work to do. By creating a space at school where it’s taken seriously and understood, students wouldn’t have to lie and feel ashamed about their health.

Written by Liliana Reyes

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