By Lauren Howie
Upper Dublin High School '22
To Whom it may Concern,
Unfamiliarity, unknowingness, and unpredictability-- those three words encapsulate recent times, rigidly outlining the world around us and its seemingly unforgiving nature. Amidst the pure chaos that now defines life, the suffering of those enduring it is overlooked, which can arguably cause more damage than the unrelenting chaos itself. Teens have been trapped in this cycle of pain and loss, yet the conversation on mental health is not only lacking, but often diminished. By not talking about the increasing detriment of teen’s mental health, we are putting an entire generation at risk.
Not only has the COVID pandemic upended the concept of normal life and likely forever shifted it, but the general topic of mental health is one that, for years, holds such a stigma that is immeasurably dangerous yet barely addressed. Our youth have been isolated for nearly eleven months now, and have forcefully lost connections and contact with friends, family, teammates, classmates, and simply the daily bustle of life. Any sense of normality has dissipated, causing heightened levels of anxiety. It is difficult to feel purposeful when there are no attainable goals other than making it to the next day. Our eyes are dry from the blue light of the computer screen, and it feels as if the headache from sitting at our desks in our bedrooms symbolizes something much larger: every day has become like this, and we are living a metaphorical headache, a constant, dull, and irritating state.
Although we write this in the darkest of times, this letter is long overdue. The concept of mental health has been targeted for years, but in a time in which it needs the most attention, it has received none. We have reached a tipping point, and it’s time we address it. Through navigating challenges of school, college, friendships, sports, activities, and family life (just to name a few!) while simultaneously trying to learn how to survive in the world around us, it leaves us little time to focus on ourselves. External pressures often carry the weight of the world, and leave us crumpled before we even have the chance to fight. The preconceived notion that kids have it easy is acceptable to some extent-- we may enjoy the leisure of being unconsequently carefree, but that has its downfalls. No longer shielded from the darkness of the world, we feel burdens across on numerous accounts. Such a load may become too heavy to bear, yet this may be the first you are hearing about it. Mentioning our struggles is often met with criticism and shame, and it has become taboo rather than normalized. Mental health holds a connotation of embarrassment. If it isn’t making much sense, I’ll pose you this question: if I were to ask to go to the doctor for the flu, there would be no questions asked, I would probably get extensions on my work, and it would be acceptable to lay in bed that day. If I asked to go to the doctor for depression, would I be met with that same reaction? Most likely, the answer would be an unwavering no.
However, we are not asking for your sympathy. We are asking for conversation, for help, and for resources. To our schools: an assembly once a year is not enough. We need students and faculty actively working together to create programs and initiatives that further the conversation and allow for open discussion and assistance. To our parents: we appreciate everything you do for us, but we ask for understanding. There are days we may need to sleep in. Our “moodiness” isn’t directed toward you, we’re just tired. And to the world: we are your future, and in order to benefit each other, we need some uplifting. Allow us access the resources to address this, and allow us to get help so we can help others in the future.
While the news may only cover one pandemic right now, there is another going on right in front of us that many fail to see. Open your eyes, mental health needs your attention before it’s too late. Let’s talk about it.
Teens of 2021