Mental health: the unspoken truth

​​It’s time to talk about the big elephant in the room- mental health. The traumatic consequences of the pandemic, stress, and insurmountable pressure high school students face have been vicious. More specifically, anxiety and depression consume students like a plague. An epidemic has been unfolding for a long time, and we are the victims.

Lake Forest Academy provides students with an unparalleled academic curriculum,  athletic program, leadership opportunity, and community. Students are supposed to enjoy taking time out of their day to pursue these activities; however, they are overwhelmed by the constant assault of homework, a crowded sports schedule, and the unyielding pressure to seem perfect. 

We never have enough time in a day for homework, family time, sleep, sports, relaxation, and school itself. The most concerning issue is a lack of action being taken by teachers, even though they acknowledge that students are overworked, stressed, and drowning in commitments. The severity of this situation is being downplayed- there is a message being sent by teachers that we are expected to prioritize each class, to spend hours on work no matter the time of day, and that extensions or mental breaks are not considerable. 

We are scared to ask for help, to drop a class to lighten our schedule, to miss an assignment in fear of being harshly penalized. Whenever we raise our need to rest, we are shut down, our work ethic misunderstood, and ultimately labeled lazy. 

Jennifer Madeley, LCSW School Counselor, said, “[Sleep] is one of my bigger concerns; kids are saying that they sleep way fewer hours than they should.” 

This lack of sleep can often be credited to excessive homework coinciding with an early start to school. One of these needs to change. The LFA handbook states that each regular class is limited to 30 minutes of homework, and AP classes are limited to 45, each night. But if a student takes 6 classes, that could be almost 4 hours of work after a 7 hour school day and 2 hours of sports practice. Where is the time for a mental break? For dinner? For a night of at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? The answer is that we don’t have enough time in the day for all of it, especially when teachers are assigning more than 30 minutes of homework, which is a common occurrence. 

Students desperately need time to be kids. We aren’t adults, and we have concealed problems that are going on outside of school. It seems that many adults at LFA think students’ lives revolve around academics, with completing hours of homework- even after an extremely demanding school day- their only priority. We are not robots.

When asked what one thing LFA can do to make students less stressed, many students said they need their teachers to communicate with each other. This year, students have complained of taking several tests from different classes on the same day and a lack of effort from teachers to space these out throughout the week. It would not be unreasonable for a test calendar to be put in place. 

The biggest question is: what can we do about this as a community, and what can adults do to support their students? In response to this question, Madeley had a lot of meaningful insight. 

“In order to help our community, we need to acknowledge what everyone is going through,” said Madeley. She also stressed the importance of teachers reaching out to students and doing check-ins with each other. “We shouldn’t feel that we’re alone. We need to build bridges and support one another in this community, students and adults alike,” Madeley said. 

This is an outcry for help. Students need relief and assistance but feel alone and ignored, abandoned and neglected. To ask for help is already a struggle, but to then to feel unheard? All we ask is that LFA makes itself a safe and comfortable home for students. But, lately, it seems that the lively and bright aura that LFA once had is circling the drain. It’s essential that this problem is addressed by every member of the LFA community. Together, we can create change.