‘I’m 17 – most of my friends suffer from mental illness’

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‘Feelings are brushed under the carpet by schools for the sake of league tables’: a teenager speaks to the TES about mental health.

By the age of 11, at least seven of my friends were suffering from some form of mental health problem. In the past six years, eight of my friends have been hospitalised, forcing them to leave school. Currently, at the age of 17, I would say that approximately 75 per cent of my friends suffer from mental illness.

Some of my friends are from private schools and some are from state schools. Some are girls and some are boys. Some are from privileged backgrounds, and others are not. Mental illness affects every adolescent, from every walk of life in some way.

Mental health problems are caused by the immense pressure, intense bullying and the lack of encouragement we face on a daily basis, while being offered little or no support.

In an education system as archaic and discouraging as ours, schools need to be willing to prioritise mental health over grades, irrespective of the threat this may pose to their rankings. Schools need to act on the symptoms before it is too late, rather than hoping the issues will melt away. So many of my friends have suffered because their feelings were brushed under the carpet by schools for the sake of their league tables or their reputation.

When we walk out of our school gates at graduation, the mental scars won’t miraculously fade, we won’t suddenly gain all the confidence we lost and our anxiety won’t disappear. Our mental health may only be a school’s problem for seven years, but it is our problem forever.

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