“Going to therapy has not solved my problems, but helped me learn to focus, talk about what I am feeling, and has been a safe place for me to talk about what’s going on in my life, serious or not,” said a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS). This student is not alone. Over the past few years, as Generation Z has fought to destigmatize reaching out for help when struggling with mental health issues, therapy has become more and more prevalent among students at Berkeley High School (BHS). In fact, in a survey conducted on the Jacket Instagram account (@bhsjacket), within a sample of 125 student responses, 78 percent of respondents said that they, or somebody they know, has attended therapy at some point in their lives. Given the obvious prevalence and importance of this sensitive issue, we must find a way to normalize the act of reaching out for help when one is struggling with mental health issues of any kind.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that around 16.5 percent of America’s youth, ages 6-17, experienced some form of mental health disorder in 2016. This number has been rapidly increasing, which some credit to the rise of social media, while others argue that the amount of academic pressure that students are put under is actually to blame. Whatever the cause may be, mental illness has certainly been stigmatized in a number of different ways. From being considered scary and shameful to popping up as the newest social media trend, victims of mental health problems have been pulled in all different directions by society’s expectations. This has made it incredibly difficult for young people to determine when it is appropriate for them to reach out to a mental health professional. It is absolutely vital that we break down all of these doubts and make it clear to students that no issue is too small to talk about, and that they should seek help before their issue grows into something more difficult to handle.
I am one of the many people who have experienced mental illness and the struggle of identifying my problems. I have been going to a therapist for the past three years. While some may think this makes me crazy, the anxiety and depression that first pushed me to reach out for help is one that I’ve seen many BHS students struggle with. It took me a long time to decide to see a professional, as I had conditioned myself into believing that the problems I was facing on a daily basis were completely normal and I was simply being dramatic. Today, while I can’t say these are things I no longer suffer from, I’ve worked through a lot of the self-esteem issues that stopped me from recognizing that I needed and deserved help.
It is clear that once I pushed past this obstacle that I had built for myself, I was lucky enough to have friends and a family who could emotionally and financially support my decision, which I recognize as a great privilege. Thankfully, BHS has an incredible resource set in place for students struggling in those situations: the BHS Health Center (H-105). The Health Center provides free services such as short-term counseling, crisis support, and referrals for long-term counseling without notifying family members.
In a survey conducted on the Jacket Instagram account … 78 percent of respondents said that they, or somebody they know, has attended therapy.
While the stigma surrounding therapy has decreased exponentially, especially at BHS, a large percentage of people still don’t feel that they can ask for help if they are struggling on their own. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the US. The only way we can help people who feel that suicide is their only option is to normalize the idea of therapy and counseling and make it readily available to students.
BHS has already done its part by providing a resource as incredible as our Health Center. All that’s left for us as students is to be brave enough to use the resources that we are provided with, not only to help ourselves, but to set an example to those who are struggling, by showing them that they are not alone.