Mental Health at FMHS

Finn Witham, Reporter

It’s become cliche to point out how tumultuous 2020 has been, but this year hasn’t been easy for anyone. We’re living through a global pandemic that has had major health and economic consequences in people’s lives. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, the U.S. is undergoing a major cultural reckoning, a divisive election and forest fires and smoke have become a fact of life in the West. Meanwhile, we’ve all been thrust from a complete stop back into the hustle and bustle of school, work, and other activities. For high schoolers, who already navigate a difficult enough landscape, this year has only compounded stress and anxiety.

To gauge how Fruita students are handling this year, The Catalyst conducted a survey of nearly 200 students about their mental health. The survey found that, despite the difficulties of this year, Fruita students are able to stay fairly balanced. 67.4% said they feel happy “A Lot” or “Almost Always” and 58.8% said they feel their mental health has improved in the last year. However, not all of the findings were as positive. About two thirds of students reported feeling sad, angry, and nervous “A Lot” or “Sometimes” and 41.2% did report their mental health getting worse. When students were asked why they were experiencing issues, 31.8% cited stress from school. Stress from home and social issues were the number three and four issues. 

For many students, who have been at home and less occupied as usual since March, jumping back into school and extracurricular engagements after months of inactivity has been a stressful and shock-inducing experience. Violet Balestrieri, a sophomore, said that “It’s been really hard to come back to school, with all the work and the routine, right after quarantine. It’s definitely made me more anxious.” 

When students were asked to come up with possible solutions for mental health issues, many said that reducing or finding ways to manage their workload would help tremendously. Schoolwork, which many people haven’t done (at least not to the normal extent) for nearly six months, seems menacing and uncomfortable, not to mention the hours put in outside of school, whether at sports, clubs, jobs, or other activities. 

However, for some, mental health issues predate 2020, and they aren’t necessarily tied into the outside environment. 30% of respondents said that they had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and 16.7% said they were experiencing mental health issues because “I Just Am.” A sophomore who has dealt with depression and who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Everyone gets stressed out, but having a real mental health issue is different. Even before all the stuff this year it was hard, even when things seemed to be going well.” 

It’s important to draw a distinction between everyday worries and real mental health disorders, as the latter is not mostly conditional on outside events. 

While we may experience it differently, we all, even if only sometimes, struggle mentally and emotionally. It’s important to find environments in which we can be open about these struggles, and find strategies to deal with them. Finding trusted people to talk to, maintaining good physical health, building strong relationships and mindfulness can all help to maintain optimal mental health. Checking in on friends and peers makes everyone feel cared for. We all have the power to, whether individually or collectively, keep our community safe and healthy. We’re all going through major challenges and difficulties. All we can do is stick together, do the best we can, and make it through.