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A personal view of teenage mental health

What’s behind the bored apathy?

A personal view of teenage mental health

By Matilda

If you’re anything like me, you’re really worried about everything, and one of the most prominent of these worries is what lies beyond the confines of secondary school…What comes next? I need a solid plan or I have a full scale melt down. And yet, my anxious rambling is always met with bored, apathetic groans and ‘Uuugh why are you worried? it’s not for ages’. 

While this is true, I couldn’t shake the thought ‘How do people like me cope with this?’ ‘What’s behind this bored apathetic demeanour?’ ‘How do young people facing the same struggles as me and far worse manage?’ I think that young people have to deal with so much. They distance themselves from people because they think it’s what they need and don’t communicate when they’re hurting because they think it’s easier. 

It is hard to deal with so much; a desperate desire for attention when you hate being looked at, let alone spoken to, an all consuming need to be liked by everyone when you feel such loathing for every last millimetre of their being. Emotions contradict each other, life is one big oxymoron and we’re all just trying to figure it out. 

The original purpose of this article was to show young people that they’re not feeling something that we as a society cannot possibly comprehend. There is going to be someone, somewhere, that understands you, so reach out to people if you’re feeling like that, even if it is just to prove me wrong. Suicide is the third leading cause of suicide in persons aged 10 to 14, or so google tells me, and that, in my opinion, is wrong. But I suppose the article has become a little peephole into the anxieties of young people. Although everyone is different - and thus have different anxieties - a lot of people have expressed to me that these are things that concern them.

I interviewed 13 year old George from Bristol to see how he deals with things that others could struggle with, to see how he copes.

Does the thought of university scare you?

“Yes”. “Because of doing essays and things. Doing work. This will put a lot of pressure on me and I just want to get on with life. I don’t want to do school all over again.”

This is how a lot of people feel, I think. If one has an unpleasant experience with education, that could affect their desire to learn. Why would you do something again if it upset you? Maybe if more was done to make school at least bearable if not enjoyable for those who struggle with their mental health more people would want to go to university or pursue some sort of further education. 

How do you think your mental health is affected by school?

“I get a lot of verbal abuse from people around school, its kind of a building full of people being as mean as they can to each other, like trying to out do each other. And also it’s a seemingly everlasting drag of eternal boredom where they make me do stuff I don’t want to do.”

It is a common theory that school isn’t about the actual class learning, it’s about the people and interactions between pupils. This has some truth, in that social skills are some of the most important things you’ll learn in school, but also in that you won’t enjoy school when you have issues with other students. Bullying, fighting, name calling, cat calling, racism, homophobia, these are just some of the things that still plague us, even in this day and age. I’ve witnessed many a ‘friendship group drama’ in my time, and let me tell you, that is so damaging to a person, even if they aren’t the one having the drama. 

What aspect of school affects you the most?

“The social hierarchy; people who shouldn’t be at the top are.”

Sometimes one is overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel unremarkable when you maybe don’t have as many friends as someone else, or didn’t do as well in a test as someone else. It can be really hard, especially when you don’t think they deserve it, and it is a struggle to be grateful for what you have when you are constantly comparing yourself (and being compared) to others.

Do you feel enough is being done in schools to tackle poor mental health?

“I have no clue what they’re doing so I guess not. It’s not as spoken about as it should be.”

Is it right that the students of a school don’t know what systems are in place to help them? This may be taking confidential too far. As cool as a secret society for the protection of students’ mental health sounds, it might not be the most practical idea. I agree that it isn’t spoken enough. This is something that affects everyone, it can’t just be swept under the rug.

What more do you feel could be done?

“In tutor they could tell you about where you could go to get help anonymously.”

I think this is a really good idea. Anonymity is the key idea. Some people might be afraid to get help because they don’t want people to find out, and judge them for being ‘weak’ or ‘broken’. Harmful stereotypes have been reinforced for so long, it takes work from everyone to change the way people think, and we need a way for people to communicate about their mental health in the interim.

Do you think mental health is a prominent issue in today’s society?

“Yes because people kill themselves and thats not good, and people get depressed and resort to alcoholism.”

This is not something a 13 year old kid should be thinking about. Of course, it’s important to be socially conscious, and to accept that reality isn’t all sunshine, flowers and lack-of-hayfever, but childhood shouldn’t be overshadowed by alcoholism and suicide. We haven’t strived for years to become an advanced society just to worry children. To quote Chris Ridgeway ‘Boo to reality, and thumbs down to the mundane’.

What do you feel is a more prominent issue?

“Terrorism because it kills people. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, it feeds unhealthy stereotypes and it starts wars.”

This is very true. I didn’t write about terrorism because it’s not an issue i could get a firsthand point of view on. 

Do you know what academic direction you want to go in at university?

“Engineering. It’s cool and makes me happy, to be able to fix stuff and make things work. To create things that have an impact.”

It’s vitally important to have goals. Not necessarily big life goals, it could be as simple as finishing that book you’ve been working on for half a year, or learning to play a new piece of music or even getting your homework in on time. It helps to have some sort of creative outlet so things don’t overwhelm you, and goals give you something to shoot for.  

Does the thought of becoming an adult scare you?

“Yeah because then I have responsibilities and no one to turn to when I mess up”

So many people have said this to me. Schools are so busy teaching things you won’t use very much that they aren’t giving students the life skills they need, like learning to budget, how to remain happy and healthy and find enriching and fulfilling work. I mean, how do you even pay tax? Speaking from personal experience, it’s very worrying not knowing how to do something that I will eventually need to do. People worry they can’t ask for help as an adult. That is what the next generation is being taught.

Is your future financial situation a big worry for you?

“I think so, because if I don’t get a good job I might just have to do some boring job that I hate because I don’t have enough money and my limited plans for the future might just not work.”

I believe students should be taught how to live the life they want. I don’t mean having everything they wish for, but being happy. For instance, teaching them they can ask for help and not be considered weak in any way.

Is your current financial situation a big worry for you?

“Not particularly because my dad is good at making money”

A lot of my peers are worried about their financial situation. It’s nice to hear from one who isn’t. Children shouldn’t need to worry about things like that; they should be busy learning and experiencing and socialising.

Do you feel supported enough to talk to trusted friends and adults about your mental health?

“…Yeah. Mainly just friends because adults it will be a rabbit hole and I’ll have to talk to loads of people and answer things I don’t want to.”

I think it’s really important to have someone to confidentially confide in. Talking about things helps you process them, so try and find someone you can feel comfortable enough with that you can talk about what’s going on with you. Everyone matters the same amount, you are no less than anyone else for seeking help.

Are there any stereotypes around gender that affect your mental health?

“In school the girls can come up and punch me and slap me in the face but I can’t hit them back because then I’m the bad one. I think subconsciously I do feel like I have to prove my masculinity, but I don’t want to so I don’t think about it. For instance, I do stupid things in front of my ‘wife’ (he means his girlfriend), but then I think about it afterwards and think ‘I only did that because she was there.’ so I think this is me trying to impress her.”

Gender stereotypes are such burdens on everyone. Girls think they’re not feminine enough. Boys think they’re not masculine enough. With gender based insults closing in from all corners, young people feel they have to change themselves to be the ‘ideal girl/boy’ and wear tiny skirts or try and get a six pack to attract a mate. It is hard to have to deal with thinking you’re not enough, or have to do something better in order to deserve love.

So I think that is an accurate account of what it’s like. Everything you do, you do to affect people’s opinions of you. The uncertainty of growing up is a looming and petrifying prospect. Being young is difficult. Sometimes we just need a blanket a box of tissues and a good cry.

I spoke to Rachel Green, an integrative psychotherapist, about mental health in schools. I asked her what advice she would give someone who is struggling with their mental health. She advised them to “go and get some help. Tell someone. Let someone know you’re hurting. It’s really important, especially for people at school. Usually, people tell their friends, but that puts a lot of pressure on the friend and makes them worry. I think the most important thing is making a space where children can talk to people confidentially and that there’s information out there to help people, helplines, websites, etc. People need to know they can reach out because it could be bullying, domestic issues, self harm. More could be done about it, like getting in guest speakers, doing work around grooming, forced marriages, gangs. I think mental health is really important in schools and the more we talk about it and normalise it the better, so students don’t feel inadequate or shamed, even about sexuality and stuff; it can cause a lot of conflict”.

 That’s a professional point of view, the most trustworthy of all points of view. I know, I’ve used the words mental and health about a thousand times this article, but they say repetition gets your point of view across so yeah. You say lack of proper editing, I say literary device.

P.s, I do actually care about your struggle, and I understand it, you’re a depressed, misunderstood Emo teen and no one gets you, but honestly, I don’t mind taking the roll of concerned mother. Here are some links that helped me. I have no dignity to preserve, so I’m begging you, if you ever feel you need to talk to someone, use them. These are professionals who can help you more than all of your friends. It’s completely confidential and judgement free. If not for me, do it for every other person who’s ever felt like that, for everyone who cares about you, for every tear you’ve shed and every time you’ve felt less than enough. You deserve to feel better.




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