“Mental health is an isolating subject,” Berkeley High School junior Kai Lim-Moreno said. “It’s never an easy subject to talk about. There’s such a sigma about (mental health),” she explained. Lim-Moreno stated that this stigma and aversion to speaking about mental health can make issues like depression a lot worse.
Despite the isolation that mental health causes, many students struggle with their mental health, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. According to the survey, anxiety and depression are the two most common disorders students have or believe they might have.
While she has not been diagnosed, one junior who wished to remain anonymous wonders if she may have anxiety. “I feel constantly overwhelmed and I have a hard time sleeping all the time,” she said. “I’m over thinking everything I do and on the nerve of mental breakdown, pretty much every other day… It’s just this overwhelming feeling of dread, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going away, which is scary.” She wonders if, “this is me just being a teenager or is this something that I should seek help for?”
She explained that while she does want to get help, its hard to open up that discussion. “In my friend group, I’m the person who’s supposed to be the ‘normal’ one and the ‘sane’ one. I have never felt uncomfortable when people have come to me with their problems, but it’s always been hard for me to reach out with my own (problems),” she said. “I want to be there for other people, but sometimes it’s hard to let other people be there for me,” she said.
For some, a diagnosis can provide a sense of clarity. Auden Svoboda, a senior, said about his anxiety and depression diagnoses: “I definitely knew that I was struggling with mental health, but it was still validating to hear that from a professional,” he said. “Anxiety and depression have been a part of my life for such a long time that it’s sometimes hard for me to differentiate between those disorders and my personality.” He added.
Senior Milo Abiad explained that his diagnoses with anxiety and depression simply confirmed what he already knew, but the medication that came with those diagnoses was beneficial. While his ADHD diagnosis was unexpected, it did help him understand why he struggled with paying attention, fidgeting, and energy levels.
Lim-Moreno was also diagnosed with ADHD, but felt that her diagnosis was difficult to come to terms with. “When I first got diagnosed with ADHD, I definitely saw things differently,” Lim-Moreno said. “I kind of blamed myself and was like, ‘Oh, this is why you can’t do school. It’s your fault. You have ADHD. You can’t do these things.’ I was really hard on myself in the beginning,” she said.
Lim-Moreno struggled with her diagnosis so much that she would avoid taking her medication. She explained that seeing the improvement in her mental health that the medication caused made her diagnoses undeniable, which made her self conscious. “Over the years as I work on accepting myself more, I’ve become more comfortable,” she said, explaining that she takes her medication now because it allows her to feel like herself and accomplish more. “It took a while, but I came to terms with the fact that this is who I am. There’s nothing I can change about it. If people don’t like me for who I am, it’s not my fault.”
Mental health issues can greatly impact students’ relationships with school. “I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with school,” Lim-Moreno said. She stated that when she’s off her medication, “I have a really hard time sitting still for a whole period. I’m usually out of my desk standing next to it … I can do (my class work) to some extent, but mostly I ask my teacher if I can take it home and turn it in the next day because I just can’t concentrate for the period of time that it takes to complete.”
Abiad explained that he sometimes isolates himself due to his mental health. “Let’s say I’m in class. I’m fidgeting, getting up, doing something,” he said. “I feel embarrassed, I guess, as if people are judging me for moving during class when they’re not moving.”
To help provide support for struggling students, Berkeley High School employs an array of mental health resources, including the Health Center and its free on-site therapy and counseling for students.
“Berkeley is genuinely a great place for people who are struggling with mental health … because of the infrastructure that we have setup everywhere,” Abiad said. “The Health Center alone is a great place. Having free therapy accessible for anyone at school at any time is a very good idea.”
He added. In the end, one of the best resources for students struggling with their mental health can be their peers.“I feel like I know a lot of other people that also struggle with mental health and I’m pretty open about it,” Svoboda said. “I don’t really see it as a shameful thing.”
Abiad explained that he doesn’t feel different from other students at BHS because he has met many peers who have had similar experiences with ADHD, depression, and mental health issues in general. Many of his friends struggle with their mental health as well, and they’re able to rely on each other for support. “A lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health, but I think talking to other people is one of the best things you can do about it,” Abiad said.