2019 Scholarship Recipient

I feel as though one of the most relevant and pressing problems for someone in my generation is the rise of mental health issues. It is seen that in the last decade, more and more individuals are being diagnosed with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Two of the underlying causes of this issue are said to be social media and academic stress.

On Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social platform everyone is wearing a mask. A mask that says “my life is so good and so happy” or “look at what I have and you do not”. We are only showing the best moments of our lives and trying to prove that we’re so happy all of the time. However, the falseness that we all play into is damaging. Other teens viewing these posts and profiles feel more self-conscious and doubtful about their lives and attempt to compensate for the difference. Failing to achieve this ideal life leads to depression within these individuals. Additionally, social media causes teens to have body dysmorphia. The trend of having plastic surgery, lips pumped full of filler, eyelash extensions stretching miles, and many more unrealistic expectations deemed “beautiful” give teenagers the idea that if they don't have these things they are not beautiful. Speaking from personal experience this severely impacts self-image. Girls see these Instagram models with all of these “beautiful” augmentations to themselves and begin to have intrusive thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness. This can also attribute to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

Academics are becoming a greater stressor in an adolescents life. They are trying to keep up with AP classes, dual enrollment courses, college applications, SATs, ACTs, and more all while maintaining a social life, community service, and an after-school job; It’s overwhelming. Whether this stress stems from the parents or the teenager themselves, it is truly destructive to those involved. When a student fails to meet this expectation, it can invoke thoughts of inadequacy. These thoughts prove to be detrimental to the mental wellness of many adolescents and result in illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

There is no real solution to this issue. Society would have to do an entire 180 to resolve this issue. There is no way to have adolescents not have these thoughts. However, I do believe that if there is more of a conversation between everyone (parents, teachers, teenagers, coaches– everyone) that it will aid many struggling with these issues. I do not think that this issue is getting enough attention. Additionally, I think having a quarterly check in with your guidance counselor or the school psychologist would help many students. Knowing that you have someone that is looking out for your mental health in one of the most intensely stressful periods of your life would be extremely beneficial to those trying to cope with any type of mental illness.

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