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April 2018

8 in-depth BRAIN

8 in-depth BRAIN OVERLOAD WITH MENTAL HEALTH SO ELEMENTAL TO OUR WELL- BEING, FIND OUT WHAT FACTORS IMPACT IT AND WHAT RESOURCES WEST PROVIDES FOR ASSISTANCE Wake up. Reach for phone. Check social feeds. Brush teeth. Check for likes. Snapchat your outfit. Eat breakfast. Direct message your friend a meme on Instagram. Looking through social media has become a second-nature behavior for many in their daily lives. Instead of using letters, phone calls, and emails that were mainly dialogue discussions, our generation is reliant on social media platforms. “Body image” “Sleep deprivation” “Grades” ZAC ABERO “Work” “Stress” Instead of meeting up with their friends at the popular local hangout, teens now meet their friends online. of place in the sea of a million l “If one post gets less likes th With our eyes so focused on that public lens, a person’s profile up,” Ashraf said. oftentimes shows a curated version of who they -- one that they An additional way that soc think will help them to feel “accepted” or like an “influencer.” the emotional appeal it has on i The result is something more like an exhausting marketing Health (RSPH) and the Young campaign than personal communication. “I’ve always wanted studies titled #StatusofMind. Th my feed to be aesthetically pleasing, but it never actually worked age of social media is more addi out because I would keep deleting pictures if it didn’t match my which can lead to poor sleep, theme, meaning maybe I didn’t edit it right, or it just wasn’t the young people say they have exp right color,” junior Samiha Ashraf said. ing to RSPH. In the study, th Social media has changed our generation and generations to the strongest negative impact ca come. Instead of worrying about how one is perceived in person, many are concerned about how their social media Since teens have no control insecurities with body image. appeals to others. The stress to fit in this rigid formula post, it remains important to ta creates outsized pressure. types of information that provok Balancing well-b “Physical health” “Relationships” “Violent world news” Wealth of With over twenty percent of youth living or expected to live with a mental health condition, the odds that any high school student will experience or will know someone who will experience mental illness is extremely high. Fewer than half of these students, however, receive treatment and oftentimes wait years before seeking help. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average delay between an onset of mental illness symptoms and intervention is 10 years. Many times, this is due to reluctance on the part of the student; other times, it is due to a lack of awareness. “The stigma [around mental health- Social media: why logging off is good for yo QUOTES TAKEN FROM WESTERNER STUDENT SURVEY OF 211 STUDENTS DESCRIBING TRIGGERS THAT CAUSE A DECLINE IN THEIR MENTAL HEALTH April 13 College, grades, school, work, extracurricular activities, family, relation ships, friends—to the 211 students that answered a recent Westerner surve these were the factors that contributed most to their struggles with ment illness. As our society shifts its focus to demand college readiness and soci media invades every corner of our lives, today’s youth remain mo strained, stressed and pressured than ever before; amidst the myria of pressures and responsibilities these students face, sacrifices a made to pursue success and, oftentimes, mental health is the fir thing to go. In recent years, Maine West has seen a significant increase i the number of students being assisted by mental health trea ment facilities, according to assistant principal for student se vices Dr. Claudia Rueda-Alvarez. This trend, unfortunately, not one the school bears alone; in fact, the increase in ment illness among adolescents has been observed in abundanc across the nation, according to The National Alliance o Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI currently reports that one in five American yout ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition. Thoug the exact cause of this trend is difficult for researchers t determine, there is much that we already do know. Rachel Whybrow, Education Program Administr

, 2018 an all the others, it just looks out ikes. It’s a lot of pressure to keep ial media is studied focuses on ts users. Royal Society for Public Health Movement did a series of e study confirmed that the usctive than cigarettes and alcohol, depression and anxiety. 70% of erienced cyber bullying, accordey discovered that Snapchat has using lack of sleep, bullying and over the content of what people ke deliberate actions to avoid the e feelings of frustration, jealousy, eing - y, al al re d re st n t- r- is al e n h h o a- resources for mental health care] has existed for a long time. We now realize it’s not the person’s fault it is happening. Oftentimes, [mental illnesses] are caused by biological or environmental factors,” Maine West psychologist Cristina Ramirez said. How can Maine West students help reduce the stigma around mental health? “One thing we can stop doing is stop using mental health terms in our everyday language. We need to use correct words for our feelings,” Ramirez said. Luckily, West students generally have a positive attitude towards accepting help with mental healthcare and the school has options for students seeking help. “At Maine West, we really value ur health mental wellness as a staff,” Ramirez said. “We have mental health services built into our school, but we’re limited in our scope of what we can do in the sense that we are limited to the school day and to the school year.” What should students do if they need help with their mental health? “It’s about reaching out when you feel like you need it and not being ashamed and worrying if we are going to tell anyone. We can, per state law, meet with students without informing their parents immediately, unless of course they’re at risk of harming themselves, harming someone else or someone is harming them,” Ramirez said. In the aftermath of the Parkland, BY MARAYA ADAMS asst. in-depth editor worry or inadequacy. “If I could relate to quotes or other posts, that can make me feel a certain way. Some posts can make me happy, angry, and upset. It’s all different,” freshman Jordin Suwalski said. There are, however, ways that individuals can detox from social media platforms. Some, who have unplugged and have participated in hands-on activities, have noticed the difference in their health. Todd Braver, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, participated in an adventure that opened up his perspective on what detaching yourself from technology really does. Braver and others in his profession went on a trip to Glen Canyon National Recreation area in Utah, to 53% witness the effects of enjoying nature minus the technology. They analyzed that intensive technology use can create BY MATTHEW MONTANILE OF STUDENTS SAY THEY assoc. editor-in-chief Fla, shooting, President Trump said that he would work with state and local leaders “to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” Though Trump has provided no update on his plan, Ramirez offered her opinion on what she thought the community could use more help with, regarding mental health. “I actually think we do a really good job [with providing students with the resources they need],” Ramirez said. Maine West currently has two social workers, three psychologists, nine counselors and three deans who work in conjunction to look at a whole child from an academic and behavioral viewpoint. However, in an ideal world, HAVE STRUGGLED WITH THEIR MENTAL HEALTH (ACCORDING TO A WESTERNER SURVEY OF 210 STUDENTS) BY BHAGIRATH MEHTA editor-in-chief in-depth 9 Ramirez would “expand services by increasing community-based mental health services such as creating a mental health evening center joint-funded by the district and community. [There would also be] individual counseling outside of the community to provide more services [especially for] low-income families. “We are very lucky to have Maine East Health Center and for our students to have access. We just need to expand our services offered throughout the community,” Ramirez said. deep thoughts that lead to anxiety. Being one with nature and “logging off” can help tremendously. Junior Alexis Yacobucci took action against her reliance on social media and unplugged for a week. “I am less reliant on technology; this break honestly helped me see the negativity in social media and at times now, after this break, I have noticed myself getting annoyed with social media. There was a very noticeable change in my mental health. This break helped me to compare myself to others less and to focus less on the likes and comments. Of course, I don’t think social media is terrible and it is definitely fun, but I think taking it in moderation makes it a lot more enjoyable,” Yacobucci said. tor at NAMI in Chicago, explains that “mental health conditions are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It’s not an exact science, but we do know it’s a combination of those two—so as students enter high school, a lot of those big environmental factors are happening. We’re seeing big life changes, changes in school, changes in friend groups, changes in either familial or social relationships. That’s why we observe a big spike in mental illness at this time.” Compounding the changing, environmental stresses that high school students endure are the many demands that students face in their daily lives. “When it comes to the demands, I think what has happened within the past 10 years of education is that we’ve seen an increase, not only in what we expect our students to accomplish here, inside our walls, but also overall, in society,” Rueda-Alvarez said. This ceaseless drive is evident in many areas of a student’s life. A cursory glance at a student’s transcript might be sufficient to see that, for some, life may be out of balance. In a Westerner survey of 210 students, more than a third reported that their school workload is too challenging, and 32 percent of survey respondents stated that their school commitments frequently prevent them from engaging in hobbies and leisure activities. Though this sacrifice of leisurely engagement might be heedlessly dismissed, and in some cases encouraged, this lack of personal harmony is just what professionals advise to avoid. “In life, everything is about balance and sometimes we forget about that, and we forget how to balance the demands of our careers and our jobs—or for students, balancing your courses, your classes, your extracurricular activities with getting a healthy diet, sleep, and enjoying your friends and family,” Alvarez said. In many cases, there just isn’t a way to balance all of it within the 24 hours of a day. Without a proper amount of time and attention invested in these basic necessities, circumstances might turn for the worse and mental illness may develop, in the same way that too much stress, too little sleep, and too little nutrition make one vulnerable to viruses in the short term and dibilitating illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes in the long term. Whether mental or physical, illness feeds off these circumstances to take root. “What we see instead in a lot of youth is that students are so overwhelmed by this responsibility that they have taken on, whether it’s AP classes or otherwise, that they then might turn to negative coping strategies which might relate to overeating, not eating enough or using alcohol and drugs in order to cope with these stresses,” Whybrow said. Additionally, Alvarez points out that the importance of finding balance within our lives not only helps one go about their day, but also defines us as who we are. “Like everything in life, if we’re not balanced, then we start to miss certain parts of who we are and that’s when we’re going to start feeling that unbalance even more. If you don’t find balance, you’ll eventually have to pay for it [with your health].”

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