The Student Mental Health Crisis: A Hidden Epidemic

Kya Nethercot, Editor in Chief

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens. A CDC report in 2017 identified that over 17.2% of students had seriously considered attempting, and since then, experts have indicated that this trend has continued to rise. In recent years, we have witnessed an alarming rise in anxiety, depression, and overall mental illness in students. It has become an epidemic in schools, which leads many to wonder, what can we do to help our students in need?

Mariner High School staff and administration have been working rigorously to try to address these problems in our own student body. This year alone, there have been a variety of efforts to increase student mental health awareness and connect students who are struggling with the resources available. 

Some of these efforts included: a play production for sophomores by Kaiser Permanente called ‘Ghosted,’ which addressed mental illness, booklets that were handed out with activities on coping mechanisms and student counseling.

According to Hannah Newhall, the student support advocate, students have access to many counseling resources here at school. There are, of course, school counselors in the counseling office, but there are also mental health therapists. 

Newhall elaborates, “We have them on campus. They are provided to us by The Center for Human Services Program. So the neat piece is we have a pocket of students who meet with mental health therapists here in the building, and it’s super confidential. “They’re treated as clients.”

School counselor Jieun Townsend explains that the only downside is, “We only have two mental health therapists, and the need for them is high, so we have a waitlist. The district has mentioned they are willing to provide us more, but our building is just too small. If we did have more, they would need a space to work from.”

Despite the waitlist, Newhall believes the therapists have helped many students in need. “Therapy has been extremely successful. The students who are seeking out the support through them are making a lot of progress personally and academically, too, because it’s hard for them to focus in school when you have a lot going on in your life,” Newhall said. 

Newhall suggests that in the future, a way that schools could help students with mental illness is through “transportation because the ones that receive service here have a difficult time getting to and from providers; that’s why they seek help here. If there were a way for the school to provide transportation for these students regularly, that would be awesome. Right now, we only have ORCA cards, but we only receive so many in a year.”

Access to these resources is vital with the student mental health crisis, and they will only continue to become even more essential as time goes on. School counselor Luisa Zapata explains, “[mental health issues] are increasing at a rapid pace, especially this year. We’re seeing that kids are starting to come to us, the counselors, much earlier in the year. Usually, it would start right before Winter Break, but this year, it has been almost from the start. They’ve been coming to us with anxiety or depression or just stress in general.”

This recent trend indicates that student mental health is just getting worse. Now, it is more important than ever for students to have access to the resources they need and to be informed about what those resources are. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact your counselor, and seek help. In an emergency, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.