Should Students Feel This Stressed?

Everyday students walk the halls with their own pressures and struggles
Source: Emma Simmons

Everyday students walk the halls with their own pressures and struggles Source: Emma Simmons

The modern high school student and teenager are characterized by depression, anxiety and an angst that overwhelms most other characteristics of this generation. It is often attributed to the moodiness of adolescents, hormonal changes and the simple idea of “kids being kids”. This rhetoric is both damaging and ignorant, and it encourages adults to disregard the problems that high school students face in the modern world.


My experience with this phenomenon began when I entered the high school ecosystem. I quickly fell into a deep depression that alienated me from my family and peers. Every day I was met with near-constant feedback: do well on this project, pass this class, make friends, maintain your GPA. Despite the fact that what I was being asked to do wasn’t new, the pressure associated with it took a toll. In the beginning, I was confused and caught off guard, but a certain worldwide pandemic brought the cause to light. When there weren’t as many expectations, my feelings of depression and anxiety decreased significantly. That circumstance brought me to pay attention throughout my high school career to how the stress and mental illness of students correlated to overworking them.


The current high school student is expected to work, get a job, participate in the social sphere, take high-level classes and go to college (which is incredibly expensive and becomes more and more competitive on a daily basis) and take extracurriculars to beef up their resumes. The mental load that this schedule requires has been slowly increasing over the years, and the numbers of those anxious and depressed have followed suit. In fact, in a poll taken by students in North Forsyth High School, roughly 67 percent of participants said that they experience persistent feelings of depression and anxiety. Those same participants generally ranked their stress levels as “very high” and school was cited as one of the main contributing factors to these feelings. 


What does this mean for our high school students? There needs to be less pressure placed on students to achieve. Everything is a competition of some sort, ranging from grade point average to sports and even recognition and praise. The focus needs to shift. Instead of standardized measures of achievement, there should be individual focused growth. Instead of pushing students to do the most that they can in the limited hours they have in the day, the focus should be on moderation and personal boundaries as well as learning how to manage work properly. Let children be children, and let high school students have a minute to breathe.