Depression and Anxiety

What are they and how do they affect students?

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…I think a lot of it comes from the unknown.”

— Mrs. Miriovsky

Almost one-third of all high school students will encounter an anxiety disorder, if not multiple, but these are not the only mental health disorders they may encounter. There’s a long list of mental health disorders, ranging from clinical depression all the way to schizophrenia. It’s important for teachers, relatives, and even the students themselves to recognize what these mental health disorders are and how they may affect their learning, their social lives, and even their day-to-day lives, some being affected more due to the COVID-19 quarantine.

“I have most definitely seen an increase [in students coming in after the quarantine]. A lot of it’s anxiety-driven, just super, super anxious, super nervous, and I think a lot of it comes from the unknown,” said Mrs. Miriovsky, David City High School’s counselor.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders seen among adolescents. Both have treatments, but 80% of children with anxiety and 60% of children with depression are not receiving the necessary treatments. Many children and teens also go undiagnosed, which may be a reason they are not receiving treatment. A student’s mental health is at risk when their anxiety and depression are overlooked, and that can cause social and behavioral problems, poor performance and learning, poor self-care practices, low self-esteem, and even neglected hygiene.

These mental health disorders often come together. Anxiety can come with a side effect of depression, while depression can come with a side effect of anxiety, but what are they; what symptoms come with them?

Depression is often characterized by a depressed or sad mood, loss of interest in activities, significant weight gain or loss, problems concentrating, sleep difficulties or insomnia, fatigue nearly every day, feelings of worthlessness, and recurring thoughts of death. Women are two times more likely to develop depression, and about a tenth of people will experience depression during their lifetime. A few risks for depression include a family history of depression or similar disorders such as bipolar disorder, poverty, unemployment, social isolation, other stressful life events, and regular drug and alcohol use.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is often characterized by uncontrollable worry, sleep problems, muscle tension, increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, and even an upset stomach. There are also various types of anxiety. There are specific anxieties such as social anxiety which is characterized by overwhelming worry or self-consciousness in ordinary social situations. There’s generalized anxiety which is an excessive amount of worry in several areas of life that might be considered minor concerns to others. There are phobias which are intense fears of specific situations or objects. Lastly, there’s panic, which is an extreme anxious response called a panic attack. Anxiety can also grow. Oftentimes, those with anxiety avoid what scares them or what makes them anxious to get a sense of relief, but that relief is short-lived. The next time a similar threat appears, it feels scarier than it did before which creates a harmful cycle of avoidance, then worsening anxiety.

In February of 2019, a survey by Pew Research Center showed that 70% of students believed that anxiety and depression were a major problem among their peers, and 26% believed that they were only minor problems which left only 4% of students believing that they were not a problem.

“…70% of students believed that anxiety and depression were a major problem among their peers””

— Pew Research Center

“Honestly, I’ve had more students this year (2019) hospitalized for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues than ever,” said Kathy Reamy, chair of the NEA School Counselor Caucus. She then states that there are a lot of things going on during our present times. There are pressures on students to fit in, to achieve, and the pressure of social media. “And then you couple that with the fact that kids can not feel safe in their schools—they worry genuinely about getting shot—and it all makes it so much harder to be a teenager.”

“I would say that I have seen a little bit of everything. I think that I’m seeing the kids that are affected, for sure, academically,” said Mrs. Miriovsky.

Between 2007 and 2012, anxiety disorders in children and teenagers increased by 20%. The rate of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers has also doubled over the past decade. It’s hard to tell why there have been such increases, but some of the top reasons seem to be high expectations and pressures to succeed, a scary and threatening world, and social media. A survey by Higher Education Research asked incoming college freshmen if they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do and 41% of students said yes in 2016, comparing that to 28% in 2000, and 18% in 1985.

“I have to say, I’m very, very proud of our students and our staff members helping each other out. I’ve seen a lot of, amid all of this craziness, and worry, and anxiousness, I’ve seen a lot of people step up to the plate and help spread kindness, make people feel better, and lighten their loads a little,” said Mrs. Miriovsky.

DCHS currently has ‘Drops for your Bucket’ outside of Mrs. Miriovsky’s office. They are to be used as an anonymous, positive note to anyone in the school whether that’s students, teachers, or any of the administration. It may not be able to fix anything going on, but it may put a smile on some of their faces.

Anxiety in Teens is Rising: What’s Going On? (19-11-20). HealthyChildren.Org.
Depression | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (2019). Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Depression Info Sheet (Worksheet). (2014). Therapist Aid.
Exploring Social Anxiety (Worksheet). (2014). Therapist Aid.
Flannery, M. E. (2018, March 28). The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students | NEA. National Education Association.
(2020, April 17). Impact of Anxiety and Depression on Student Academic Progress. IBCCES.
What is Anxiety? (Worksheet). (2013). Therapist Aid.