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  • Writer's pictureLexy Spreitzer

Don't Hide Your Mental Illness, High School Students

[originally published July 29 2019]

Mental illness causes a lot of pain. It brings a struggle to the lives of many. As someone who has been very familiar with the pains of mental illness since I was in 3rd grade, I have some important advice for you. Middle school, high school, and college students - please read this article if you're dealing with mental illness, anxiety, depression, or anything else mental health-related.

When I was in 3rd grade, I was put on medication that literally ceased my 'zest' for life. While my anxiety was being managed, I could no longer pay attention in class. I couldn't have fun in school activities and I lost nearly all of my friendships. In middle school, I was secluded from everyone - I was the weird, quiet girl who couldn't even find a partner for class projects. If an assignment required two students to work together, I knew that I would be left alone to complete the work by myself. Some of my teachers were extremely disrespectful to me because I always zoned out in class. I cried in the bathroom in 7th and 8th grade more times than I can remember.

During my sophomore year in high school, I was attending therapy sessions every week. I constantly missed English class and was falling behind on a major research paper. My teacher talked to me about it privately and inevitably told me that my 'excuse' was a modern-day "my dog ate my homework."

To be fair, my 'excuse' consisted of me just stuttering "I don't know" over and over again. At the time, I was so ashamed of my mental health, my disorders, and my depression that I could not be honest with my teacher. I wish I had told him the truth. I also wish some teachers were more empathetic toward their student's needs, but that's a different story.

Honesty is key in all matters of life. However, I believe that if your mental health status is hindering you as a student, IT'S PERFECTLY OKAY to tell your superiors. If you need to do so, tell at least one teacher or professor about your issues. They are likely to be understanding and helpful in your situation. Or, from more of my experience, they will at least not give you a hard time about "being a lazy student." Taking care of yourself is not lazy. Asking for an assignment extension because you had a mental breakdown is okay. Don't use mental illness as an excuse, but understand that it is a valid and worthy reason to take care of yourself. Don't let teachers or peers bully you because they don't understand your story. You will be okay, I promise.

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