Fighting Mental Illness

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If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or strong feelings of anxiety or depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


For highschoolers in today’s day and age, life can be incredibly stressful. Students need to juggle school work, sports, clubs, social lives, and many other things all at the same time. While a degree of stress is common to all, some students’ brains respond to life’s triggers in an especially unhealthy way. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 students have experienced a serious mental disorder, and that statistic is only based on those that go reported. 

While anxiety and depression are very common, many students do not know what to do when they start showing symptoms. They also don’t know how to recognize when their psychological state is a normal part of growing up or an indication of something more serious. I spoke with Emma Benvenuti, a counselor working for Family Behavioral Resources in Hampton High School, to discuss some solutions to these problems. 

Anxiety and depression can be very disruptive and debilitating, especially when the symptoms are severe,” Ms. Benvenuti explained. “The best thing a student can do is communicate what they are experiencing to someone (parent, teacher, guidance counselor).”

Unfortunately, many students may feel embarrassed or ashamed to come forward about their feelings. However, they may be surprised to find that the adults in their lives experience mental health disorders as well, that they are an increasingly common part of life. Mrs. Savina Cupps, an English teacher at HHS, explains, “I have struggled with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since I was fifteen, but I suffered in silence because I thought my constant feelings of inferiority and sadness were a normal part of life. It was a dark way to live, but I put on a brave face and did my best to deal with my inner catastrophizing on my own. However, now that I’m older, I really wish I’d gotten help sooner. If I had, I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my youth being in a heightened state of anger, fear, and worry.” 

Many students may be unaware that HHS has two organizations that can provide therapy. You can either talk to any teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator and they can connect you with these services. 

If you are uncomfortable with talking to someone about your mental health, there are also forms in the counseling office. The first of these services is the Student Assistance Program (SAP). If you sign up for SAP, you will first meet with a student from Pitt who will do an evaluation to figure out if therapy is right for you. You will then be paired with a therapist who will do out-of-school sessions. The whole process is extremely confidential, so your information won’t be shared with anyone outside the organization.

 If you cannot go to therapy sessions outside of school, then you can sign up for Family Behavioral Resources (FBR). FBR was recently invited to HHS, and they provide professional therapy during school hours. Students can meet with therapists during their lunch periods or study halls, and even parents can attend these sessions as well. 

Many people believe that they are being weak or “giving in” when they go to see a therapist, but this could not be any further from the truth. It takes a massive amount of strength to be willing to see a therapist about your problems. It shows that you are willing to receive the help you need. 

It is never a good idea to dismiss a feeling of anxiety or depression. You may think to yourself, “Just get over it; it’s not that hard,” but this kind of thinking is rarely helpful. If you believe you are experiencing any symptoms of anxiety or depression at all, do not hesitate to talk to a trusted person or meet with a therapist. We all can experience these feelings, so it is important to get the help we need. 

I also asked Ms. Benvenuti for some small actions students can take every day to improve their mental health. She gave me these tips:

  1. Talk to someone: This can be a close friend or a close family member. It is important to get support.
  2. Distract yourself: Find something or activities that are enjoyable can be helpful to regulate your emotions. Examples include hobbies (drawing, crafts…), exercise, calling/visiting a friend, or playing with the family pet.
  3. Improve the moment: Find a way to do something you enjoy as often as possible. This doesn’t have to be something big, it can be something small. My family enjoys building puzzles. We often have one out and at different times in the week, I will take 5-10 minutes and work on it. It is satisfying to see the image develop. 
  4. Find time to relax: This can be done by mindfully using relaxation exercises, listening to music, or watching a funny movie. YouTube is a great source for finding examples of relaxation videos. Also, there are  a lot of apps that students can use for self care. 
  5. Pay attention to how you think about yourself: Our thoughts can have a big impact on our emotions and behaviors. Remember to encourage yourself and to not only pay attention to the negative things.