Taking a toll

Students mental health



Suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Statistics collected from a survey of 108 West High students.

Tiara Soppe, Reporter

Have you personally experienced mental exhaustion or know someone who does? Has this past year affected your mental health? Has the isolation and zoom meetings drained you mentally? Do you have trouble getting any sleep or managing to stay focused throughout the day?  Do you miss the physical and social interactions? If so, you’re not alone. 

Mental exhaustion is something that 67.6% of West students experience and struggle with, especially during the school year. Some students struggle at home, academically, juggling classes, work, and sports and it can take a toll on one’s mental health.This year has been like no other. Freshman are trying to find their way for the next four years, whereas seniors are feeling the pressure by trying to mentally prepare themselves for their first tentative year in college after what seemed like a disastrous senior year. 

Senior Emalee Lemon states, “I think this year makes everything more stressful because everything is so uncertain. Especially in the beginning of the year with classes being half online, it just made everything feel more overwhelming because there was so much more I had to do without any guidance.” 

In the life of a student, athlete or worker, it can be exhausting and extremely stressful. At what point are students supposed to stop sacrificing their mental health for an outstanding GPA and a good test grade? At what point are students allowed to take a mental health day when it becomes too much? 

Lemon said, “I wake up at six in the morning to go to weight lifting, then I go to school, and from there I either work or have softball, sometimes both. I have maybe one day off a week, if that. In my free time I typically organize or catch up on school work that I haven’t had time for. I just feel like it’s overwhelming because I come home from work at 9:30pm and then I still have two hours left of homework to do on top of showering, eating, and still going to bed at a decent time,” Lemon adds, “Each week, I typically work 14-18 hours depending on when I’m scheduled and I usually get around 6-7 hours of sleep. Sometimes I even spend two hour doing homework or studying for my college classes; I’m physically drained and mentally exhausted.”

As a 2021 senior, this year has been anything but ordinary. The amount of work to file for FAFSA, apply to college, write essays for scholarships, keep up in school, and participate in extracurriculars has been extremely stressful and time consuming. 

Lemon said, “I feel really pressured and exhausted because not only do I have to worry about maintaining A’s in my classes, but I also have to worry about turning in scholarships on time while also making sure they’re up to par, so I actually have a chance. It’s also stressful because I didn’t get the opportunity to physically visit my college.” 

Online classes have also been a hassle for many students this year, between losing motivation and simply making time for the class. Once early bird was declared just an extracurricular activity and not a PE credit during term 2, many students were in a jam when it came to high school credits. 

Lemon states, “Typically, I use early bird for my gym credits since my schedule is so packed, but this year, halfway through the class they decided to cut early bird as a gym credit. So, now I have to do an online class which is even more stressful because the workload is a lot.” 

A recent survey about mental health was administered to West students. In a free response question regarding what has impacted their mental state, students shared their thoughts on how this school year has taken a physical and mental toll on them. 

In the anonymous survey one student stated, “Coming back 100% has taken away nearly all my free time. I go to school for 7 hours, go home for 30 minutes, go to work until 11pm, and do it all again. I get what feels like minuscule amounts of sleep. I’m stressed out and exhausted.” Another anonymous student expressed, “I feel overwhelmed because some classes are online and I feel that sometimes I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, so I feel stressed 24/7.”

West’s social worker, Jennifer O’Hare has worked extremely hard to be able to put resources together for students who are struggling, whether in or outside of the classroom; these resources include a school therapist to a mindfulness group. 

O’Hare stated, “We have a school based therapist, Lisa Balk and she’s here two days of the week to work with students individually. Hopefully next year she will be here full time. We provide a space for her to meet with kids because a lot of time transportation is an issue for families, therefore it’s helpful to provide this service at school.”

“Other services we have here is that Family Resources has been providing virtual support groups for high schoolers in the district. Participation hasn’t been great because everyone is just ‘virtualed’ out. Looking at next year, hopefully we will be able to have those supportive services in person like we did prior to COVID-19. This school year has definitely increased anxiety and depression and we want to provide access to students for these services. We know it’s hard to ask for help.”

The first week in May, O’Hare plans to hold a mindfulness group study where students read a book to gain a different perspective and learn to give themselves a break, especially to help their mental health. 

“We received a grant to provide these books, The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, which will benefit everyone; It’s a six week session revolving around this book. Everyone thinks mindfulness is meditation or religion but it’s not, mindfulness is learning how to be present in the moment rather than stressing about the past or getting anxious about the future. So, I’m going to work with a group of kids to work on strategies to help figure out how to be less stressed.” 

Mental exhaustion is something many students struggle with and the severity can begin to take a toll on an individual. Students with jobs while playing sports along with schoolwork and zooms can become easily overwhelmed, especially if they are dealing with other things outside of school; this is why O’Hare has created these resources for West students to be able to talk and receive help.