Individuals, community must embrace spectrum of mental health struggles


Audrey Tseng, Jamie Wang (text)

Devon Lee and Angela Wong, Sports Editor and News Editor

Mental health encompasses a wide spectrum of conditions, yet at times it still continues to be seen by students and administrators as a one-dimensional issue. In this case, suicidal ideation is seen as the “deciding factor” of whether a student struggles with mental health or not. Such dangerous generalizations that stem from black- and-white perspectives of mental health undermine the challenges that students face. These challenges include diagnosed mental health conditions as well as stress and burnout from academics and relationships.

Moving forward, high schoolers and staff must adopt a growth mindset in order to recognize the complexity of mental health and the difficulties that come with diagnosing mental health conditions. This can allow for a more inclusive, sensitive treatment of mental health that can extend to the entire student body, not just
those in crisis. In other words, staff and students alike must hone their energy and resources toward extending preventive measures that tackle mental illness on a broader scale on top of existing measures, such as mandatory Social and Emotional Literacy and Functionality (SELF) classes.

A black-and-white view of mental health hampers Gunn’s efforts toward awareness. It is important to note that suicidal thoughts are not, and should not be considered a root cause of overall “unwellness.” Rather, suicide is the consequence of certain “risk factors,” including mental illnesses. Ultimately, while suicide prevention is an undeniably important aspect of mental health efforts, an all-or-nothing mentality reduces mental health awareness and undermines the perceived severity of mental health conditions.

Considering that mental health occurs on a spectrum and is not black and white, one of the biggest challenges of maintaining support systems is reaching students. So far, Gunn’s community has made several advances to help those who are struggling with mental health, particularly those who are proactive in seeking help. For example, programs like Sources of Strength and SELF have helped people who are willing to engage with them.

In the future, such efforts at Gunn must make it theirpriority to extend help to the people that are not neces-sarily struggling with depression, but still could benefitfrom mental health support systems.

There is no single solution to improving mental health at Gunn, but reactive and preventive approaches are currently the most common. Reactive measures help those who are already suffering from mental health problems or pose a threat to themselves or others. Pre- ventive mental health covers a wider range of people on the spectrum andis more effective at reducing mentalhealth issues.

For example, the campus has implemented the SELF program, which reaches all students not only because it is mandatory but because its process can help all students on the mental health spectrum.
On the other hand, resources like the Wellness Center are reactive measures andare mainly beneficial to those whoare battling depression or anxiety. This is not to say that the WellnessCenter is not beneficial to stu- dents but rather that programs like SELF provide more for stu- dents than what is commonly utilized by students as a reac- tive program. Essentially, SELF not only can help those who are in need of reactive programs, it also touches upon subjects and activities that can help prevent stu- dents from experiencing issues in the

Despite the improvements made by the

staff, there is still more to be done. The solution now liesin the hands of the students. In order for certain mentalhealth initiatives like SELF to flourish, students have aresponsibility to play an active role in the weekly classes and apply themselves to the activities and conversations that are put forth by the administration. Students may feel vulnerable while speaking about mental health expe- riences among peers, but SELF advocates for the inclu- sion of the entire student body in imperative discussions of student wellbeing—an opportunity that should not be

taken for granted.
Likewise, the Wellness Center, another great “safe

space” for students to discuss mental health, may provemore beneficial with increased transparency. That is,many students on campus have questions and concerns

regarding the Wellness Center—ranging any-where from what to expect on their firstvisit to what times are available for visits—and the answers may bedifficult to find. For greater over-all clarification, and to invitestudents who are hesitant butmay benefit from its services,the Wellness Center should provide more information about how it functions to ease hesitant students’ con- cerns and encourage greater

Awareness groups such as the

Reach Out, Care, Know (ROCK) club, Sources of Strength and the Project Oyster podcast have also made great strides in raising mental health aware- ness. These programs inspire honest conversations, giving students and community members a platform to share their stories. While ROCK and similar initiatives greatly demonstrate students’ desire to make mental health awareness on campus commonplace, there are still students struggling with mental health who are not

heard and may feel uncomfortable reaching out.
These efforts, though, are not exclusive to Gunn-spon- sored activities; there are countless ways to support peers on a daily basis, such as checking in on friends, makingtime for non-school related conversations and offeringto listen. Small acts of kindness such as these can help promote a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere in which students may feel more comfortable sharing their

experiences or seeking help.
In the near future, as the administration and students

alike move further away from a one-dimensional mind- set, Gunn can begin to shed light on the complexity of mental health and the myriad approaches toward im- proving overall wellbeing. Both reactive and preventive measures are necessary to ensure such wellbeing; how-

ever, the entire student body will benefit if our peers can find the courage to par- ticipate in wellness initiatives and take them seriously.