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Mental Illness in Students

By Riley Brennan

February 12, 2017

Ms. Oliveira, Block 5

Mental Illnesses in Students

Throughout centuries, there have been many documentations of mental illnesses and how

they were treated. It was first seen that those who had any mental illness were deemed insane,

psychotic or even possessed. If a person showed the slightest signs of depression or any

withdrawal from reality, they were then sent off to asylums and often used as test subjects.

Popular treatments back in the early-to-mid 1900s are now thought of as cruel and inhumane.

Patients would often be forced into electrotherapy, submerged in ice water baths for hours at a

time or would be forced to go through a lobotomy. These cruel treatments rarely cured any

patients but instead sent them further into insanity. It was only recently that professionals

confirmed many mental illnesses to simply be chemical imbalances in the brain or results from

tramas and are now treating those who suffer with more care. Though better care and treatment

plans are given, the number of people who suffer is sadly increasing at an alarming rate. The

most common cases often include preteenagers or young adults, which seems to show that

mental illnesses are becoming more common in teens as time goes by. One of the most common

struggles young adults face in todays society is the demands of school and the responsibilities

that come with it. School can create large amounts of stress in teens, especially teens who

already have to cope with their own struggles in their daily lives. Schools today should provide

more support and educate staff so that students will be in a healthier environment, where coping

with these disorders easier and less strenuous.

The increase in mental illnesses in students, such as depression or anxiety disorders, is

often seen as the student being too lazy or unmotivated to do work and complete school just as

well as other students. That statement is simply not the case, these disorders take a large toll on

students everywhere. There is more and more evidence available everyday to show that mental

illness is gradually getting worse in young adults. According to the National Alliance on Mental

Illness (NAMI), about 1 in 5 children around the ages of 13 to 18 have, or will have a serious

mental illness. And about 50% of students, as young as 14, will drop out of school due to mental

health issues.

Certain mental illnesses can go unnoticed, but nevertheless they are most definitely real.

Diagnosing these illnesses is now much simpler because there are multiple signs and symptoms

that prove to doctors that a patient could have one of these disorders. Some signs for these

include, but are not limited to: prolonged sadness or irritability, excessive fears, worries and

anxieties, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits, delusions,

hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and/or substance abuse. It seems as if more and more people are

showing signs for these disorders and the list of disorders and symptoms is often increased or

added to. Common disorders that are shown in not only teens, but adults and children as well,

include depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders. Other disorders that are not as common, but are

also found in teens include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder

(PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Although

the difference of a healthy brain versus a depressed brain can be seen on a brain scan image,

scientists are still unable to directly pinpoint in what area of the brain depression is found.

Despite all of the evidence and facts that professionals have made known, there are many

people who strictly do not believe that such illnesses exist. It is not uncommon to hear someone

say that mental illness is just a trend or a cry for attention. Such people include Jon Rappoport.

Rappoport, a graduate of Amherst College, is a journalist and a popular author who wrote about

widespread topics during the late 90s. On the journalists blog site, there is an entry from August

of 2012 titled Mental Disorders Do Not Exist, clearly indicating the author's views. In the

entry, Rappoport states


Officially, all mental disorders are said to be chemical imbalances in the brain. Not just any

imbalances, but specific ones. This is assertion is unproven. There is no evidence for


Rappoport claims that there is no physical evidence available to prove that mental

disorders exist, this alone is a fair point because it is not yet known if disorders such as

depression can be pinpointed during a brain scan. Yet so many people continue to suffer through

mental disorders. Unsurprisingly Rappoport is not the only author who believes that these

disorders are made up or exaggerated. Rod Berne, a writer for the website Return of Kings,

expresses his opinion on mental illness and how he believes they are strictly just an act. In his

article he lists five reasons as to why a female would fake mental illness. Berne claims there is

no real evidence that females really have any mental illnesses, but instead label themselves as ill

so they feel special and act in ways people normally could not. Berne stands behind this


...girls are faking. This is a very effective method for the modern woman to receive

attention. When mood swings and depression arent enough, she will result to swallowing a

handful of Tylenol PM and revel in the attention of her family, friends, and orbiters. Even in

milder cases, exhibiting the symptoms of a crazy person allows her to receive more units of

attention on her social media accounts.(Berne).

The author strongly believes that these females have just learned to act as if something

has been done to them or that they are mentally different in a certain way, so they can feel special

and gain attention.

Where Rappoport and Berne are wrong is they claim that there is no evidence available at

all to support the studies of experts in psychology. Evidence does not necessarily mean it has to

be seen on a screen or physically on a human. The evidence is, in fact, displayed throughout

centuries, founded in people for years, not just in todays society. As stated at the beginning of

this paper, it was said that there are documentations of humans who have experienced mental

disorders. These disorders go as far back as 5000 BCE. Although then these disorders were seen

as a sign as insanity, they were still commonly found around humans. To state that such

disorders are just an act is absolutely absurd. The opinions of Rappoport and Berne are just that:

opinions. Opinions like these are valid as they are not physically seen on a human, but to say that

it is a fact that mental disorders are only a farce is just ignorant.

Even with all the negative attention people with mental disorders receive, there are

outstanding people who have pushed through their disorders and came out strong. One survivor

who is pretty well-known and open about her struggles is actress/singer Demi Lovato. Lovato

has been candid with her past, especially with how she dealt with moments of bursts of

happiness or suffocating depression and had no explanation for why these moments happened to

her. Once she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after being rehabilitated due to self-harm and

eating disorders, she was almost relieved to know she now had a label to explain why she felt the

way she did. Lovato is now taking better care of herself as she is working on having a better

mentality and physical health. She decided to hire a personal trainer to help her stay healthy, and

having a good support system by her side when she faces an obstacle, eases her struggles. She

continues to be an advocate for not just those who struggle with bipolar disorder or eating

disorders as she has, but young adults everywhere who have to find ways of coping with the

demons that come with mental disorders. As said by lovato, she hopes to continue doing so to

support those who feel as if they are alone in their battle with mental illness.

Another inspiring story of survival comes from a website called Young Minds. Young

Minds is a blog site that was created for young people who feel the need to express their

concerns regarding the world they live in and the struggles they face everyday. One story of

meret entitled Hayley: Overcoming depression and how I cope with the bad days. The author,

Hayley, writes about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She states Contrary to the

stigma, depression is not just simply a case of feeling down or being too lazy to engage in your

daily routine. Depression is a medical condition and one which should be taken more seriously as

it affects roughly one in four of us.(Hayley). Hayley herself has experience in dealing with these

disorders so she has written her article from a different point of view compared to Berne and

Rapoport who have little-to-no experience with these disorders, so perhaps that is why those two

authors feel the way they do.

Another interesting point Berne made in his article is he mainly focused on women, as if

men do not have these disorders. There is a well known stigma on men with mental illnesses, that

they do not exist. If a man claims he has any type of disorder then he should not consider himself

a man anymore. Men are told that they are not to feel, cry or seen as weak in any way. As if

being born a male they are born without basic human feelings as well. Not only is a man frowned

at if he is struggling mentally, the same will happen if he experiences any form of abuse or runs

into body image issues. One man who has set out to break that stigma is Sam Thomas. Thomas is

an British student who also writes on the website, Young Minds, and shares his story about his

eating disorder. Thomas had developed his eating disorder around the age of thirteen and after a

few years of having bulimia he finally tried to bring serious medical attention to it. He was

shocked to learn that his disorder was not looked at as a real issue, but instead was ignored and

he was told he was only depressed. He felt the doctors would not help him for a females issue,

so he slowly began to recover without the help from a doctor. Thomas was annoyed at the fact

that help for males who develop eating disorders is rare Time was critical because size zero

was the aspiration of the day and, whenever I went online, I could only ever find a few blogs

aimed at male sufferers of eating disorders. Most of the charities tended to refer to the sufferer as

'she', with a token mention that males might also be affected. I had a bee in my bonnet - surely

there should be something more for men?(Thomas). He then decided to go out and set up a

website so that the attention needed to recover from bulimia or other eating disorders, could be

given to males also. He was turned down when asking many places to help startup his site, until

he encountered a company called Fixers that willingly supported him. He later appeared on the

news and his website, Men Get Eating Disorders Too, is still running today.

As the number of those who encounter the struggles of mental illnesses increase, so do

the numbers of coping strategies that are readily available. The more common coping methods

range from plans as simple as medication to exercise. One of the first coping strategies a doctor

will do when gone to with mental illness, is prescribe medications and perhaps even find the

patient suggestions for therapists. These methods help some patients, but sometimes medication

and therapy can only do so much. It is great websites such as Your Life, Your Voice that give

readers new ideas on how to deal with everyday struggles. These coping skills range from

writing, to exercising, to even ripping paper. There is an endless list of what to do when dealing

with challenges that have to be faced on a daily basis.

Ultimately mental disorders are real and they continue to affect people all over the world,

from children to adults, there is a large number of people who suffer from these disorders. It is

simply not something that can be ignored and should have more acceptance in the communities

of those who suffer. Students make up a large percentage of those who have experienced such

illnesses like depression or anxiety, so it should be common for them to receive the help they

deserve inside and outside of school. Many teens end up dropping out of school because they are

unable to handle the stress and overload of work, students would agree when saying school

comes first and they come second. Although the schools themselves are not to blame for the

mental disorders, little is done to support the students that struggle. Todays schools should focus

more on the mental health needs of their students instead of just the status of their school. Good

grades are difficult to come by without good health. In the end it is clear that these mental

disorders are taking a toll on students in todays society. Although a lot has changed throughout

the years that has made it easier to deal with mental disorders, there is still much to be done in

order for the rate of mental illness to drop.


Works Cited

Schrobsdorff, Susanna. The Kids Are Not All Right. Time Magazine, Bishop, Faith-Ann,

November 7, 2016, pgs 44-51.

McLaughlin, Ken. "Being a Teenager Is Not a Mental Illness." Spiked. Creative Commons

License, 9 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

99 Bipolar Disorder Facts. Bipolar Lives, Bipolar Lives, 18 June 2014, www.bipolar-

Bine, Anne Sophie. Social Media Is Redefining 'Depression' . The Atlantic, Atlantic Media

Company, 28 Oct. 2013,

Schrobsdorff, Susanna. Teen Depression in the U.S. Is on the Rise. Time, Time, 15 Nov. 2016,

Faris, Stephanie. Teenage Depression: Statistics, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and

Treatments.Healthline, Healthline, 22 Mar. 2016,

Psychology. YouTube, YouTube, 6 Jan. 2015,


Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope.Mental Health


Mental Health: Types of Mental Illness. WebMD, WebMD,


MacMillen, Hayley et al. Demi Lovato Opens Up About The Mental Disorder She Didn't Know

She Had. Demi Lovato Mental, Eating Disorder, Bipolar Depression, Refinery29, 28 May 2015,

Skills, 99 Coping. Tips. 99 Coping Skills,


Berne, Rod. 5 Reasons Girls Fake Mental Illness A Few Overlooked Factors. Return Of Kings,

13 Feb. 2016,

Rappoport, Jon. Mental Disorders Do Not Exist. Jon Rappoport's Blog, 19 Mar. 2015,