By Jack Karnes
Northeast High School
Young people have enough to deal with. There is the rite of passage; there is dealing with college and its financial obligation; there is dating and other interpersonal drama; there is peer pressure; and there are family or immigration issues.
Add a toxic political environment and social upheavals, and what you get is an anxious generation with underlying mental-health issues.
Mental health is hurting today’s youth more than ever before, and what’s concerning is that many young people are silent about issues surrounding mental health. At Northeast High School, most students when asked about their mental health, hesitated to be open about it.
“I’m very anxious, to be honest, very anxious,” said sophomore, Dhebora Castro. “I think it’s just life.”
Said Angelita Seak, a junior: “Society makes me anxious because I feel like I have to live up to certain standards or do certain things that people in society want me to do.”
For Latino students, the heated political debate over immigration has created much angst and anxiety and may be contributing factors to mental health issues.
The Trump Administration’s recent travel ban and crackdown at the southern border have created a host of problems and headaches for legal and illegal immigrants.
Of 13 Hispanic students interviewed for this story, four had anxiety issues caused by loved ones having been deported by ICE. Two of those students have relatives who were born in this country, natural citizens of the U.S., who were deported. Three more fear that friends or family could be returned to the country of their origin.
Such fear, the students say, is causing undue stress that is affecting their daily lives.
Some Latino students in Philadelphia, a city where ICE isn’t largely strong, believe they are failing classes due to mental-health issues caused by the threat of deportation.
And it isn’t just Latino students being affected.
Out of the 22 students of Middle Eastern descent interviewed for this story, all but three have families living in that region. Many of them facing war, terrorism and upheavals daily.
“I wish I could visit [my home country],” said one such student at Northeast High. “I wish I could know they were okay. I wish I knew if they were still alive. My grandmother and all my cousins and uncles and aunts, they could all be dead. It’s always weighing on my mind. They can’t get here, and if I go visit, I might not be able to come back.”
Of the 19 students with family in the Middle East, nine say that they show, or have shown, symptoms of depression.
Dawn Cohen, a psychology teacher at Northeast High, said: “It’s easy, for me, at least, to recognize anxiety, to recognize any forms of depression. Depression can be situational — if something’s happening that they’re having difficulty dealing with.”
Whether it’s moving into adulthood, or dealing with interpersonal relationships, most teenagers in America struggle.
Not everyone shares the same struggles, however. Some students must cope with existential issues that can affect their mental health.