Getting a grip versus getting the grade

Why students must prioritize their mental health before their academic success.

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For many teenagers, collegiate achievement equates to happiness; however, if poor mental health comes in the way of these achievements, a teen can fall into a downward spiral. Most of the time, getting consistent A’s and an impressive GPA is what students dream of accomplishing in high school. The pursuit of this goal usually involves sleepless nights, constant focus, and an ungodly amount of stress. The combination of these things is utterly toxic to mental stability.

“Lately I’ve been procrastinating a lot and it leads to a vicious cycle of me not getting enough sleep and being tired,” Dana Smith (‘22) said.

Presently an IB student, Smith has been attached to some form of gifted education since first grade. The weight of her current classes, even compared to those prior, can be incredibly difficult to manage. Procrastination is a temporary escape from the pressure, but especially in high school, work tends to stack. The education system is particularly unforgiving when it comes to students falling behind.

“I have a really busy schedule with swim and school, and I stay up until 2 a.m. some days. It makes me pretty stressed sometimes,” Ava McEwan (‘21)said.

As a student athlete, McEwan is exceptionally pressured to manage her time wisely. At the point of attending daily sports practice, a student’s prioritization must be immaculate in order to get by academically. Often times, McEwan has to use lunch periods as an extension of study hall to make up for the lost time.

The unsettling statistics of student mental disorders is a familiar concept to the public. However, the gravity of those numbers (the teen behind their depression), is overlooked much too often. In a study done by New York University (NYU), a large population of public high school students were asked about their stress levels. Nearly half of the participants reported stress management as a daily struggle. Grades, homework, and preparing for college were the greatest sources of stress. A substantial minority, almost a third of participants reported feeling clinically depressed during the school year.

Noelle Leonard, PhD, senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing (NYUCN), warns that chronic stress persisting into the college years may contribute to academic disengagement and permanent mental health problems.

“We are concerned that students in these selective, high pressure high schools can get burned out even before they reach college,” Loenard said.

The main purpose of the study and the most important thing to remember about managing stress is that there are always methods of coping. The lack of education pertaining to stress management can lead to fatal results for teens when the weight of the world piles on too far. Reaching out to a psychologist, consulting school faculty about your struggles, and sharing your conflictions are important techniques to remember.

All signs point to crucial when it comes to stress management. Students must prioritize their mental health over all other things for their sake, and for the sake of all that care about them. The numbers don’t lie; depression and suicide rates are climbing. There are steps everyone needs to take in order to maintain stability in all aspects of their life.