Opinion: Does #SouthCare? How mental health is handled at school

Katie Maraldo '21, Staff Writer

As the world becomes darker, its inhabitants reflect its aura. Since the emergence of technology into our society, many things that we as teens would not have been exposed to in a classroom or home setting are exposed to us online, like painting a picture-perfect life on an app when you’re deeply suffering on the inside.

The other problem introduced is not from technology itself, but from the adults in society not understanding the issues we are going through. When I told my mom I was depressed, she had a lot of trouble understanding it–she still does–and I know a lot of people who are not even able to openly discuss mental health with their parents. What about at school, though?
Mental health and mental illnesses become a touchy subject when brought up in a learning environment. Why? Because they are not normalized. In my three years at South, I have noticed a lot of improvements with the way mental health is gone about, like providing counselors for grief and talking about suicide awareness. Aside from the school providing people to talk to, there really isn’t much more they have done to help with mental health.
A group of students started the “#SouthCares” movement at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Since then, a policy came about where if you have three or more tests in a day, you could reschedule one. That’s very helpful with decreasing the effects of anxiety because having four tests in a day is an overload of information.

The problem with this policy is that it is not enforced on teachers, so some (very few) do not follow it. I had an experience with a teacher where I could not take a test because of my anxiety and they clearly displayed that they did not care. Although they later apologized, this behavior still irks me. Truthfully, most of the teachers I have had at South really do care about their students, but there are a few who unfortunately do not.
When it comes to depression, that subject is even more touchy than anxiety. I know various people who have had to miss anywhere from days up to months of school for depression. In my head, it would make sense that those absences would be medically excused, but they were not. I know someone who had to go to administration and fight for her absences to not be counted against her when she had to miss school due to her depression. This is clearly a problem that we can hopefully work together to fix once school gets back.
Recently, the incident with the rock being covered up happened, and I feel that I need to discuss that, too. Administration claimed that painting the rock in honor of a Grosse Pointe North student who had recently committed suicide was “glorifying suicide”. Many students including myself argued against them, saying that covering the rock was a highly inappropriate way to handle the situation.

This also brought about discussions on social media after a current South senior posted her own testimony on how her mental health has been downplayed at South too. I think that the conversations brought about because of her bravery were very healthy, but in order for anything to be done about what students are talking about, the administration has to listen. Currently, there is a lot going on in the South community, and in the world in general, that distracts attention away from mental health. But once things are back to normal, we can hopefully come together as a school and fix the underlying issue prevalent here: the misunderstanding of teens’ mental health.