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Deterioration of Our Mental Health: The Root Issues of Aging By Vishal Kapadia




Reflect on the time you were a child, a young and curious individual. Times where dreams felt limitless and life felt magical. As we progress through our lives, our perception of reality drifts from this calmness. We long to experience this childhood bliss once again. Prominent in today's teenagers, the weight of increasing responsibility along with a crippling addiction to phones has led to a slow but drastic change in our mental health. Life begins to feel boring and stagnant, and activities that were once fun are no longer. In order to improve the state of thousands of high school students, it is vital we understand why there is this shift in our attitude, and what is controllable and what is not. With this new found understanding, we can discover possible solutions to aid us, rebirthing our inner child and saving a future of gloom and despair. 

As we get older and older, increasing weights of responsibility and expectation are key factors in the failure of our mental health. Jumping from elementary school to middle school, there is an immediate mood shift of expectations and standards. Grades and test are set in place to measure our ‘smartness,’ more work is assigned outside of school to keep us busy in ‘learning’, and activities and games slowly begin to feel childish and ‘kiddy,’ Overtime, the feeling of being a kid starts to disappear, and our increased individual responsibility subconsciously weighs down upon our minds, a new and daunting sensation. As you tackle finding your comfortability and adjust through this time, a rare period of joy is to be found. You find a group of friends, homework becomes more manageable, and this slightly increased responsibility may benefit you in strange occurrences. However, this phase of joy is immediately damaged by a drastic change thrown upon us: high school. A whirlpool of experiences, high school finds friends split apart, relationships filled with chaos, breakdowns and stresses for grades and tests, and changed identities and personas. Being tossed into a place where everyone is different levels of height, maturity, and popularity, high school is an intimidating and self-molding center of destruction. People expect more from you in nearly every sector, especially academically, socially, mentally, etc. This profound change from middle school can severely harm the confidence and mental health of many individuals, who don’t feel ready or prepared for their future. In a study taken during 2022, it was found that 16 percent of teenagers had a depressive episode during that year. A noticeable shift of academic expectation and rigor, as well as bullying and harmful jokes to certain groups of people  is produced during high school, producing an area where many students find toxic and despise. Parents expect you to take the hardest classes, participate in the most activities outside of school, and get top-notch grades, while still being a kind-hearted and social person. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Think back to the bliss described earlier in this article. The time where dreams start to have a limit, the transition to middle school and high school places a wave of responsibility and expectation on our minds, narrowing and humbling the dreams we once had. Described in an article by newportacadmey.org, students lose their ability to focus on their schoolwork, feel constantly tired and ill, and avoid social situations/activities. Unreasonable amounts of expectations set by our older generations and the ‘perfectionist’ around us make us question our own self worth and intelligence.

Used as an escape mechanism, students today are found hooked to their phones and electronics, hoping to avoid the problems at hand and find a cave of comfort. However, they are unfortunately only making their situations worse. Phones have seen an exponential rise in popularity and use in the last few years, especially as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown phase. Teenagers have learned to communicate and entertain themselves with their devices, completely changing the outlook of how humans function. As people get more and more addicted to their phones, they forget how to live life without it, always fiending for a constant supply of a dopamine rush. Likes and comments through social media apps give a false sense of confidence or even failure to many students. During high school, not having a phone/social media is looked down upon, as people think you aren’t ‘cool enough.’ In a research project conducted by Columbia University, scientist found a direct correlation of social media use to “depression, loneliness, anxiety, and suicide ideation.” It is summarized how phone usage and social media “can also contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.” Connecting to the earlier points discussed, in this world of high school chaos, students find escape through their phones. They are able to talk with their friends the whole day, play fun and interactive video games, and entertain themselves with short, fifteen second clips. They find a false sense of happiness, disguised as an escape from the real problems they are facing. This combination of leveled up responsibility and a false sense of security through phones is a silent killer to the mental health of thousands of teenagers. Day by day, scroll by scroll, test by test, the lives and mental attitudes of young students deteriorate, and as you dig yourself in this deeper and deeper rabbit hole, you reminisce on the times of being a young kid, a time of being free and content. 

How do we solve this issue? How can we help the lives of millions of kids following this scheme and trap? The answer is simple: we can’t. The world is progressing in all aspects of society. Technology is becoming more advanced, students are learning more advanced material at a younger age, and young kids are getting hooked to phones and social media earlier and earlier. No matter what major solutions that are implemented, the direction of where the world is headed doesn’t allow for you to feel childhood bliss on a daily basis. The speed of evolution catches up to our minds, and our mental health suffers in silence. However, in order to preserve your own happiness, there are steps you can take. Do activities you enjoy and set limits on the amount of time you spend on your phone. Instead of following the pathways of thousands of other students, find hobbies you enjoy and make time in your day to immerse yourself, helping distract yourself from the responsibilities you may hold. As well, take responsible and calculated decisions in the amount of work you can handle, leaving time for leisure and joy. Don’t waste a beautiful sunny day inside scrolling, but instead spend time with your family or take a walk. It is crucial to understand that even if the world is advancing, the steps you take individually can result in changes that are undefinable. At the end of the day, the change to your mental health starts with you, not with anybody else. 

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