Recent Posts

Recent Comments



School is inevitably a stressful time for teens. Balancing school work, extracurriculars, and a social life poses many stressors. To find out more about the stress that teens experience, I interviewed 12 high school students from grades 8 through 12 about their mental health, stress levels, and what affects them. The students interviewed were from the local area. One student was homeschooled, others included students from public schools, private Catholic schools, and one student who has attended all three types of schools. 

It’s important to know what the causes of poor mental health are in order to fix it. With these interviews, I was hoping to uncover some of these causes, along with the positive aspects of students’ lives that can improve mental health. These were the questions I asked:

  1. How would you rank your mental health on a scale from 1-10? Explain.
  2. What would you say are some of the positive or negative contributing factors to your mental health state?
  3. What would you say is the main cause of stress in your life?
  4. How could this be improved?
  5. How does your mental health affect you on a daily basis?
  6. How does mental health affect your performance in school (grades, attendance, etc.)? 
  7. How does school/extracurriculars affect your mental health?
  8. What keeps you going?
  9. Do you feel supported by your school?
  10.  What role do your family/parents play in your mental health?
  11.  Any other thoughts/takeaways?

When asked how they were doing mentally on a scale of 1-10, the average answer was around 6.5. The students generally expressed that they were doing okay but not great, with a sense of languishing in between.

I noticed that all of the 11th graders interviewed expressed a heightened sense of anxiety about school/college, work overload, and having no free time. Answers to nearly all the questions varied, but one almost unanimous sentiment was that school was the main stressor in students’ lives. 

“School is probably the main stressor in my life because it’s almost constant new work, tests to study for, and knowledge for me to memorize and then discard after,” 11th grader Leah expressed. 

Mental health affects students much more than people realize and can be reflected in more than just their grades or attendance. Poor mental health affects people’s relationships, motivation, extracurriculars, and ability to enjoy this period of their lives. 

“School does not help at all with mental health and is very unforgiving. It’s not always the teachers, but the school policies that make me upset,” said 10th grader Juliet, “my school is the thing that least supports me. Because I am absent sometimes, I am on probation. Even though my grades are excellent, I have the potential to get into trouble.”

When asked if she felt supported by her school, 11th grader Gracyn replied, “No, especially in junior year at its worst. Most teachers prioritize work for work’s sake, or even worse, the half-baked idea of ‘I’m just preparing you for college.’ I think education should become less about work for ‘preparation’ and more about learning, which I believe is the real preparation.”

High school grades and the reality that they can affect your future adds a lot of pressure. The same thing goes with extracurriculars – much of the time, they’re no longer an outlet for students to have fun and meet people with common interests. High school sports and scholarships are more competitive than ever, and extracurriculars/clubs are just piled on for resume fodder out of fear of not measuring up rather than for genuine interest or enjoyment. Schools supporting their students’ mental health is vital. Some interviewees said that they felt supported by their school, but most said they did not. 

“My school doesn’t make an effort to reach out to everyone or show they care. If you don’t say anything, nothing will be done. They definitely target sports players and not those just trying to get by,” 11th grader Sunny expressed. 

“Telling us to manage our time better does not take into account the fact that with hours of homework plus extracurriculars, it is often impossible to manage time or be a normal teenager. This isn’t even accounting for the stress of trying to prepare for the ACT, college admissions, or anything else,” 12th grader Elle added. 

When asked what could possibly improve their mental health, many students said that they just needed more downtime to do things that they loved and recharge.

“School and extracurriculars, while they can be beneficial, are most often a root cause for negative turns in my mental health. This is usually due to the amount of time both take up. I have some days where I am out with sports or drama until 7-9 PM with hours of homework lined up. This gives me little time to do anything else to unwind or be productive outside of school work,” Elle shared. 

It seems that the key to productivity while staying healthy mentally is balance, which is becoming harder and harder to achieve with all of the pressure put on high schoolers now. 

Riley, a homeschooled 10th grader, had much different answers. She said that she loved having half of the day to do whatever she needed to and ranked her mental state the highest of all the interviewees at a 9. 

Emily, an 11th grader, attended a Catholic hybrid homeschool before switching to public school and then ultimately attending a private Catholic school. “I went to school 3-4 days a week and the rest I did by myself. It was a very good environment; everyone was kind to each other. However, it was harder to adjust to public school. There was more expected of you, and not everyone was as understanding … The hybrid homeschool I went to was good, but it only gave me a slice of real life.”

There is too much pressure being put on high school students to get their lives in order and set up their futures when they’re just teenagers. It’s easy to feel like you don’t measure up, especially with the pressure of getting into a “good college.” To any stressed students, know that things will work out simply because they have to. If you don’t get into your dream college, you’re meant to be somewhere else. If college isn’t for you, there are plenty of successful career prospects outside of that.

When you’re not doing well mentally, it can feel like life is just an endless cycle of school and work. I used to feel this in a big way, but something that really helped me was making it a point to do more in my day than just school. I would work extra hard in class and in my break time at school to get all of my work done so I wouldn’t have to take it home and set a schedule for myself when I got home so I wasn’t just sitting around on my phone. When you do things you love before and after school/work, it feels like just a part of your day, not your whole life.


There are no comments.