Mental illness: the silent epidemic


Noemi Grande


Emma Hodgins and Noemi Grande

Mental health plays a pivotal role in the lives of Woodbridge Middle School students, yet students don’t recognize it’s importance. Statistically speaking, 20% of the population suffers from various mental health issues. Despite the large number of those struggling, the majority of our student body is uneducated and throw around terms like “triggered” without knowledge of the definitions.

Seven different students were interviewed, and 100% of those interviewed heard the term “triggered” and used it before. But only one of seven knew the actual psychiatriatric definition.

But thanks to the internet, students now have access to online sources. “Things are changing rapidly. Through new technology, students now have instant access to information,” says Mr. Harris, the vice principal at Woodbridge Middle. As a result, students are increasingly becoming educated on mental health. For example, The Warrior Messenger, our school’s newspaper, posts frequently about mental health. (

A variety of teachers spoke out about mental health, to promote the normalization of talking about mental health among students. Their goal is to unify our school, and create an open environment where students can share their feelings.

Mr. Malmstrom hopes students understand that “it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Often times individuals are struggling because they feel alone.” Spreading awareness will encourage unity, and combat the isolation often associated with mental health issues. He describes how easy it can be to help students struggling, “it’s usually as simple as talking to them after class and letting them know that you care.”

Mrs. Torella wishes that students understood that “if they are struggling, the first thing they should do is seek out help from a trusted adult.” From there they could be directed to a psychiatrist and get the assistance they need.

Our specialized school counselor, Mrs. Frenzak, works to normalize and advocate for students with mental health issues on a daily basis. If she could tell the student body anything, it would be that “Everything gets better. Things may seem bad in the moment, but it gets better.”

But in places such as Korea, those who suffer from mental illness are often seen as “weak” or “crazy.” Jonghyun, a popular Kpop idol and main vocalist of Kpop group Shinee, recently passed away. According to “In Korea There Is No Mental Health Barriers To Treatment,” this has brought light to Asia’s perception of mental illness.

It may not seem like it, but America has similar problems. Although we are taking strides towards awareness, those in schools are still dubbed “overdramatic” by their peers. Students have warped notions about the severity of mental illness, and its effect on their peers.

It’s essential to combat common misconceptions and educate others. Without education, the number of those committing suicide will only continue to rise.

Depression, is one of the most common mental illnesses and the illness Jonghyun suffered from. It’s caused primarily by an abnormality of the neural synapses, resulting in a significant loss of interest in activities and severe melancholy. Often times those who suffer from depression have no specific “reason to be sad,” and their depression is caused by genetics, rather than environmental factors.

Anxiety is another common mental illness, and is commonly characterized by panic, and constant uneasiness. There are several different types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety and social anxiety. Anxiety disorder is similar to the anxiety one may experience before a test, but magnified and constant. Those who suffer from social anxiety often experience symptoms of extreme anxiety during social situations, or in situations in which they expect to be judged.

Therapists and psychiatrists often recommend to do a certain exercise called “grounding”. This exercise consists of recognizing five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

As advocates of mental health awareness, it is our goal to spread this message throughout our school. This topic should be important to not only those who suffer from mental illness, but to the entire school. Spreading awareness will strengthen our school community, and create a positive environment among the students.

The voices of those suffering have been suppressed for far too long, and it’s time to take action. It’s essential to educate yourselves, and others about mental health and its detrimental effects on students. For those who suffer from mental health issues, it is often difficult to reach out for help. So instead of being the bully, be the person who helps their friend through an anxiety attack, or the one stands up for the depressed girl when she’s being picked on. Words are irrevocable- once you say them, there is no going back.

Emma Hodgins

For More Information:
TONS of Information:
Mental Illnesses:
Triggered Definition:
Korea Mental Health:
Anxiety Disorders: