Students open up about mental health, seeking help

Throughout high school, students are bound to experience a wide variety of intense emotions: joy, loneliness, excitement, embarrassment and more. However, how do you know when the intensity and prolonging of these emotions are too extreme? Several students at WHS struggle with mental health issues and seek some extra help in order to carry out each day as they normally would.

“I personally struggle with both anxiety and depression,” senior Cecilia Tornetto said. “I was diagnosed when COVID-19 hit, as that’s when I noticed my mental health was driving the bus instead of myself.”

For some, thoughts can be so overwhelming that they hinder their ability to go about their day as usual.

“If I have too much homework, my mind just starts thinking about all these questions, about ‘Is this going to work?’, or ‘Am I going to finish in time?’, and it causes me to use a lot of my energy,” senior Natalie Oesterly said. “In turn, it kind of just sends me into little depressive states that usually last a week. And within the last two years, that’s just been getting worse and worse.”

These students found themselves unable to cope with these feelings without additional help from professionals.

“I go through waves of intensive isolation because I’m often embarrassed to display the ugly parts of my mental health,” junior Emma George said.

Professional treatment methods for mental illness can include counseling, support groups, medication and hospitalization. The process of finding the right method or combination of methods is essential in order to make the person feel more like themself again.

” I started taking [Prozac] at a very inconvenient time when I was already going through a lot,” George said. “It made me numb in the sense that I could not release emotion…They also changed my temperament, I became a very angry person.”

Options like therapy and prescriptions can help someone struggling with their mental health feel more stable and in control of themselves.

“For myself personally, I had to try a few medicines, as well as a few different therapists until I found the combination that worked best for myself,” Tornetto said. “It isn’t an easy process and not all methods are going to work right away… I strongly believe that everyone has a unique path to battling their mental health struggles.”

Feeling the burden lifted from their shoulders makes the long process of exploring treatment worth it.

“I’ve even had one of my friends tell me that he’s seen a significant difference, and it’s kind of sad that I was at the point where I was…showing how sad I was feeling and how depressed I was feeling to my friends,” Oesterly said, “but it’s also good that they’re noticing a difference and that I’m back to where I once was.”

Support from others also creates a safe space where someone can feel comfortable sharing the good, the bad and the ugly.

“The act of putting on a mask every day and trying to act like you’re okay, it’s just so exhausting, and so I would rather be open about [my mental health] because that’s one less thing to take a toll on me,” Oesterly said.

Tackling mental illness is such a struggle because there is no definite cure at the moment. Each day, a student learns more about being compassionate with themself and prioritizing themself over everything else. Therefore, it is essential that a student’s biggest cheerleader in their mental health journey is themself.

“You are living within your own mind, and when your mind is our biggest struggle, you can’t really change it,” George said. “You have to learn to live with it.”

Mentioning a visit with a therapist at the lunch table can be followed by awkward silences. Despite the taboo around discussing mental illness, students are becoming more open-minded to seeking help.

“If I’m feeling anxious about college stuff, my friends are too and we can all talk about it, even if that anxiety presents itself in different ways for each person,” Oesterly said. 

High school can be one of the most rewarding or most challenging years for each student. This all depends on students’ choices to squint their eyes shut and race for the finish line, or take the time to support each other and ask for help when necessary. Any student struggling with mental health should reach out to others and see if treatment is necessary to keep them on track.

“Treatment isn’t bad, wanting to do better isn’t bad,” George said. “It takes so much courage and strength to accept you aren’t well. It’s hard to accept that you aren’t well. However, it is so so so important.”