By Alisha Fields
Living with a mental health condition is never easy, especially for a student in high school.
The stress of life weighs on everyone. Students and teachers have different experiences but both suffer or have suffered from mental health issues, whether it’s just from the past year with the pandemic or events that have happened in the past.
Senior Virginia “Ginny” Goul says she has been suffering with anxiety since she was 10 years old and was diagnosed with depression two years ago. She says it was first noticed by her mom and gymnastics coaches.
They noticed that she had developed unusual breathing habits and decided to go to the doctor. There she was diagnosed with anxiety.
Goul said since she was diagnosed at such a young age she’s discovered many ways to cope. She said writing has helped the most.
“Writing my thoughts down on paper is a tremendous help to me. It’s just a way of getting what’s inside of your head outside of your head onto something else,” Goul said.
She said that she also goes to therapy regularly which has also helped. She says that talking to someone you know or trust can be beneficial.
She said the people she always knows she can turn to are her brothers. “My depression, I would say, came from some trouble I had at home, but my brothers and I have stayed together and I know they are people I can trust,” she said.
She also said there are many staff members at Delta who have helped her and looked out for her. “Mr. Trehearne has never failed to reach out to me. He comes into my work all the time, and he just never fails to say hi to me or see how I’m doing,” Goul said.
Another person that has impacted her is her former cheerleading coach, Mrs. Lynde Bratton. “(She) is an amazing woman, and she has helped me through a lot,” she said.
Even though she struggles through anxiety and depression Goul says she knows she is not any less of a person. “I just try to remember that I am not alone and it does not make me any less of a person and it does not take anything from me,” Goul said.
She said she really believes in self-love and individuality. “Everyone is their own person, and I think that is beautiful,” she said. “If we can love other people we can definitely love ourselves.”
One teacher who has struggled with her mental health in the past is Mrs. Dawn Raleigh. She says through the past year she hasn’t felt any extra stress or anxiety until recently, when one of her children suffered from Covid.
“It is depressing not to feel 100% and to be unable to do things for others who may need more attention,” Raleigh said.
Recently with the pandemic she said she has definitely been more anxious. “For me, the unknowns are what cause me to become anxious. I like having control of whatever I have to face, and this past year, for all of us, has been a series of unknowns,” she said.
She said in the past she has struggled with clinical depression. She was diagnosed in the early 1990s, but said it originated and went undiagnosed while she was still in high school. She says she tries to be as open about her struggles as possible to break the stigma around it.
“I am one of millions who struggle with this and with anxiety. Finding out how common this is among people of all ages was eye-opening to me,” she said.
Even with depression she said she still tries to stay positive and push through it. “There should be no shame or embarrassment attached to this, no more so than any kind of illness one may have. There are treatments, and balance can be found,” Raleigh said.
She says staying positive, especially now, has been the hardest. “I do not ‘do sick’ very well, so I am trying to have patience, not another one of my strengths. With our current pandemic I try to remain flexible and understanding. There are others who will always have more difficulties …, and I try to remain positive,” she said.
Raleigh also said that her coping strategies have helped her tremendously. “I tend to like to stay busy because it keeps me focused. Having too much time on my hands can cause bouts of depression,” she said.
Another student who struggles with mental health is junior Gara Childers. She was diagnosed with dysthymia, which is a long-term chronic form of depression.
She says that it has been a struggle, but she tries to stay positive.
“It can be hard not to let it take over [your] life,” Childers said.
She says her mom is her main support system, and she tries to be helpful however she can.
Gara’s main coping strategy is working out. “Whenever I am having a hard day I like to lift or run. It keeps my mind off things and gives me something to channel to,” she said.
She said that these struggles and bumps in the road are just a part of life, and sometimes you have to just push through it.
“It’s nothing bad, just a part of who you are,” Childers said.
Another teacher who has struggled with more recent anxiety is Mr. Tim Cleland. He said his anxiety has been caused mainly by the pandemic.
“For the last several months, since this pandemic has started, I haven’t felt as comfortable on a day-to-day basis as I did before when my life was more structured,” Cleland said.
Cleland is an extremely busy man. He teaches at Delta, he coaches tennis, and he teaches tennis clinics and lessons at the Muncie Family YMCA. He says he has been concerned about himself and his parents, who are in their 80s, because he is always in contact with so many people.
“You try to be as safe as you can with things, but it’s on your mind all the time. Am I wearing my mask? Am I keeping my hands clean? Am I making sure I’m not touching my eyes and my nose?” he said.
In the past he said he never really struggled with his mental health or being that anxious. However, he said throughout the pandemic he has experienced some anxiety. He even suffered a psychosomatic response.
He said he was visiting his parents, two hours away from Muncie, and he was so nervous and anxious that he would get them sick that he actually started to feel physically ill. He said he thought he had a fever and decided to spend the night and go straight back home. He even called his doctor to arrange a Covid test for him. However, he said once he finally measured his temperature he realized he didn’t have a fever at all. His anxiety just translated to real physical symptoms.
He said besides personal safety, one of his biggest concerns was how much time he would spend being out sick. “I’m so used to being busy 24 hours a day so I think to myself ‘If I get Covid that puts me out for 2 or 3 or 4 weeks in terms of coaching my sports and teaching at the YMCA,’” he said. “I know that there are not many substitutes that can just step in and be the coach for the tennis team.”
However, Cleland recently received his first Covid vaccine, which has helped to lower his anxiety. His parents are now fully vaccinated,
He said that staying positive in these times is extremely important. “I try to keep in mind that there is only so much you can do, and if I’m being smart about it the best I can then that’s all I can do,” he said.
Guidance counselor Mrs. Cindy Kunda said that since so many students have been quarantined or are doing virtual learning, not too many people have been into her office recently.
She said the pandemic overall has caused high stress and anxiety for many students. “The anxiety is there, and it’s real, but it’s different for each person,” Kunda said.
She said that many students currently have anxiety about their future schooling plans. She has found that worrying about Covid and college has caused students, especially seniors, stress.
“We are all in this together, but just because I say that doesn’t mean everyone is experiencing it the same way,” she said.
Kunda said that there are many things you can do to help lower stress and anxiety. She said making sure you stick to some type of routine can be beneficial. Also making sure that you are getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting at least a little bit of physical activity can aid in lowering common anxiety.
She also said that visualization can help greatly in relieving stress quickly.
“You have to imagine yourself, wherever that [happy] place may be, to the point where you can see what’s there, smell what’s there, hear what’s there, and to the best of your ability just imagine yourself somewhere you would want to be,” Kunda said.