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Hundreds of young teenagers in one place for hours on end, in theory, has always sounded like a recipe for disaster. Take into account the ridiculously high number of students who consume blue raspberry smoke for breakfast and stress during snack time, there’s just no light at the end of the tunnel for most of America’s youth.

While there are various contributing factors that affect mental health, school administrators have become complacent in their willingness to help adolescents in ways that make a difference.

Looking back at the time I should’ve spent carefree; I recall swallowing suicidal thoughts on an empty stomach five days a week. On top of that, my sleep schedule averaged about four hours per night, if I was lucky. Now, years later, I’m still trying to rebuild my life after almost making the rash decision to end it amid the stress of what was supposed to be four amazing years.

Some could make the argument that not all kids operated similarly to myself as a high schooler. To that, I applaud you. However, statistically, mentally stable high school students are the minority.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a forty percent increase since 2009.” The CDC also noted that “In 2019, approximately 1 in 6 youth reported making a suicide plan in the past year, a forty-four percent increase since 2009.”

The data clearly suggests an increase in depression among teenagers across the country, yet children are still being labeled as hormonal and melodramatic. Even after outbursts, students are punished rather than questioned after obvious cries for help such as not completing assignments or poor attendance.

Realistically, the life of a present-day high school student is far-fetched and unsustainable in the long run. So, it’s sensible that many students find themselves frustrated or exhausted.

The five-day school week seen in most public high schools leaves no time for students to rest, let alone spend time with their family or have moments to themselves. Additionally, weekends have become counterproductive, given students work through Saturdays and Sundays.

Forcing children to give up most of their lives to an institution is demanding too much, yet they do it because time and time again their triggered behavior yields no response.

Expecting children to balance family, employment, education and friendships isn’t preparation for adulthood. Rather, this booked and busy lifestyle is a setup for burn out.

On the flip side, college has a schedule that is individualized for each person. Students are able to make time for hobbies without sacrificing one aspect of their life for another. Although poor mental health persists even throughout higher education, differences could be made if people in positions of power caught mental illness or prevented it before progression.

Ultimately, changes in the American education system have been made in light of COVID-19. While more flexible classes are offered using hybrid models, courses both online and in-person, I worry about administrators regressing into old habits.

While some reshaping has transpired as a result of COVID-19, mental health is the next pandemic. It demands as much attention as all else.

Sophia Sipe is editor-in-chief for The Express. Follow her @sophiasipe.

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