Teenagers across the globe are experiencing a mental health emergency. In my experience, I rarely hear people talk about stress, anxiety and ever-increasing workloads, even though these factors are obvious precursors to serious mental illness. A 2021 World Health Organization report estimated that one in seven 10-19 year-olds (14%) experience mental health conditions, yet these remain largely unrecognized and untreated. Although the Menlo administration and student groups have hosted a couple of mental health-themed assemblies this school year – one of them being just around a month ago – it is essential that Menlo implements more mental health assemblies.
The extensive problem of student mental health demands that the Menlo community create a supportive environment and bolster the work of organizations such as Menlo Voices for Hope, Menlo’s student organization that uses the performing arts to foster collaboration between students and administration. School assemblies are the perfect way to achieve the goal of addressing mental health issues and working to find solutions; ideally, they can act as a safe space for students and make them aware of adults they can talk to and trust.
According to the WHO website, teenagers with mental illnesses are particularly susceptible to physical illness, human rights violations, educational challenges, risk-taking behaviors, social marginalization and stigma. This stigma impairs teenagers’ willingness to seek treatment. At Menlo, I think that many students would benefit from therapy for stress, anxiety and academic and social pressure. But we avoid talking about this reality, as if mental health struggles are a shameful secret.
In my experience, few are talking about their mental health struggles due to a common fear of being alienated. By having more mental health assemblies, administrators can also help gauge the intensity of mental health in our community and have more targeted approaches to solving it. These approaches can include sending an anonymous form out to the whole school to assess the situation and proceed to send out optional forms regarding receiving mental health help. This way, students don’t have to feel pressured to ask for help, but rather choose when and how to approach asking for help.
Mental health assemblies are particularly crucial for students who might not have access to mental health resources outside of school. These assemblies offer valuable resources and information, such as inviting mental health professionals to the classroom or providing information on regional mental health services. According to research from Mental Health First Aid, a course from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that trains how to identify and assist with mental health issues in others, having a social support network can enhance general mental health, especially for women, older people, patients, workers and students. A 2015 poll from Mental Health First Aid revealed that individuals with emotional support reported an average stress level of five out of 10, compared to 6.3 out of 10 for those without emotional support, where 10 was “a great deal of stress” and one is “little or no stress.” This finding is especially significant for students who lack access to healthcare or supportive families.
Mental health presentations are essential for establishing a positive learning environment for students. Mental health assemblies can help create a secure and encouraging community that prioritizes the mental health and wellness of its students by promoting open dialogues, reducing stigma and providing resources. Therefore, Menlo School should prioritize these assemblies to ensure that all students receive the necessary tools and assistance to succeed.
Recently, Menlo held its second Voices for Hope concert which was aimed at combining performing arts and addressing the prevalent mental health issues in society. The Voices for Hope organization aims to foster collaboration between students and administration to address these issues effectively. To properly address mental health concerns, students and administrators must work together. By having more mental health assemblies run or assisted by Voices for Hope, students can communicate with peers of their age, reduce stigma and create a positive environment where students can proactively share their experiences. This collaboration empowers students to take an active role in promoting mental health and wellness. When students feel that their voices are heard and concerns are taken seriously, they are more likely to feel empowered to speak out about mental health and work towards creating a more supportive environment.
In conclusion, given the prevalence of mental health issues among teenagers and the importance of creating a supportive environment, Menlo School can greatly benefit from implementing more mental health assemblies. By doing so, the school can enhance the effectiveness of the existing Voices for Hope program, encourage collaboration between students and administration and provide students with the resources they need to prioritize their mental health and well-being. Ultimately, prioritizing mental health can have a positive impact not just on the academic performance of students, but on their overall quality of life both during and after their time at Menlo.