Mental Health in Gen Z Students

Lauren Bond, Staff Writer

1 out of 6 people in the US between the ages 6-17 each year struggle with a mental health disorder according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and over this past year, mental health has become a leading issue in students. According to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), many mental health illnesses include Anxiety Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Eating Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Psychosis, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc. 

There are many causes of these mental health conditions such as genetics, the environment, and the lifestyle that someone lives in, and a person’s brain structure plays a role as well. People must become aware that a person who is struggling with mental health is not to be blamed by themselves or anyone else. When someone is struggling, those around them must try to seek help instead of blaming whoever caused a person to struggle. Gen Z especially has been struggling with mental health and many don’t know what to do. There is also controversy over if mental health is as important as physical health which makes sense why so many are conflicted on what to do with their mental health. 


Being able to know the signs of mental health issues:

There are many different signs that someone may be struggling with mental health issues. These signs do not mean that someone necessarily has a mental illness, but many of the symptoms are beginning signs that someone may be struggling with their mental wellbeing. Also, every mental illness has different symptoms, so it is important to pay close attention if there are concerns over someone’s mental health. If there is a friend or family member that you have noticed has any of these symptoms, please reach out to a trusted adult or professional that will be able to help. According to the NAMI, mental illness symptoms in adults and young adults include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior, or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Many mental health issues may start at a young age and it may be hard to identify if a child is struggling with mental health in some way. This is why it is also important to monitor any behavioral symptoms as well as general symptoms in children. According to the NAMI, the mental health symptoms in children can include: 

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Furthermore, anosognosia, autism, risk of suicide, self-harm, sleep disorders, smoking, and substance use disorders may be common and relate to mental health conditions as well. Because so many don’t know much about mental health and many may be confused about their mental well-being, there must be people around them that will observe these symptoms in case there is a need to seek professional help. If you have any of these symptoms and are confused or worried about your mental health, please seek help and please talk to someone that you trust whether it is a teacher, family member, friend, therapist, etc. Also, if you experience any of these symptoms and reach out to seek help, don’t be afraid or scared because those symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have a mental illness, those symptoms may just mean that you need to take a mental health day to recuperate and help your mental state. 

How to be helpful to someone struggling with mental health:

To be helpful to someone struggling with a mental illness or mental health, people must be aware that no one solution fits all. Different mental illnesses require different treatments and different people deal with mental health issues in all kinds of ways which means that there are different ways to help as well. To be the most helpful to someone struggling with mental illness, people must understand that it may take time for someone to open up about their struggles and it may take time for them to figure which treatment is best for them. 

If someone feels that the other person’s mental state is at high risk or is declining very quickly, then people need to seek professional or even medical attention to help to make sure that the person struggling doesn’t harm themselves or others. If someone sees that their friend may be struggling with their mental health but not at high risk, they should not be pestering the person to open up more or making them explain how they feel because sometimes people with mental illness or people that are struggling with mental health don’t know how they feel, or don’t know how to communicate to others how they feel. That’s why it’s so essential that people listen to those who are struggling so that those people feel safe and they feel heard and so that they do not feel alone. When it comes to different methods of helping with mental health, many treatments include:

  • Going to a therapist to either get advice on what to do or going to psychotherapy to talk about what’s been happening and how to cope with the struggles. (According to the NAMI, Psychotherapy, can be known as “talk therapy”)
  • Going to the hospital, doctor’s office, or going to a mental health hospital or facility to receive treatment from professionals.
  • Taking medications that were prescribed by a doctor or therapist to aid with mental illness (Make sure you only take the prescribed amount for safety concerns.)
  • Talking to friends and family – sometimes the best treatment is to talk to loved ones so that you can feel their love and care which can help with improving mental health. 

There are many more treatments that someone can go through to help but it honestly just depends on the person seeking help. Also, don’t expect treatment to work in the very beginning, it takes time to heal and it takes time to truly overcome mental challenges and some may never be free from mental illness but many will be able to improve their mental health by seeking treatment. 

The effects of Covid and mental health:

Covid has been around for over a year, and the lockdown, online/hybrid learning, and not being able to socialize have taken a toll on the mental health of students and of people. Millions of people have died around the world so it makes sense why some people are so concerned. Also, if people aren’t having social interactions with each other, whether it’s through going to school, or by hanging out, it can be hard on someone mentally and even physically. states in their article, “Seven reasons why the pandemic is affecting our mental health” that, “1)We’re anxious, depressed, and traumatized 2) Some of us are lonely, but not all, 3) Domestic violence has increased, 4) The effects depend on your personality, lifestyle, and demographics, 5) It’s worse for disadvantaged groups, 6) The effects are compounded by racism, 7) Your work situation matters.” Also according to,  “ Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures.

Another 14% indicate their children are approaching their limits, saying they could continue social distancing a few more weeks until their mental health suffers.” The article also states, “ In early April, Gallup found that 15% of U.S. adults reported that they themselves were already experiencing harm to their own emotional or mental health because of social distancing practices and closures; 18% said they would be suffering in just a few more weeks. One month later, the percentage of adults already experiencing harm increased to 22%, and 13% indicated their emotional and mental health would suffer in a few more weeks.” 

This shows that children and adults are struggling mentally since the pandemic and that has taken a toll on their personal life, school life, and work-life. Also, Gen Z has been growing up in a world with a lot of violence and hate and that has been the cause of some mental health issues as well. states,” Gen Z are more likely to report mental health concerns” the same article also did a poll that concluded that 75% have stress due to mass shootings. “According to the survey, which was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of APA in July and August 2018 among 3,458 adults and 300 15- to 17-year-olds.” This all also proves that the world and the type of environment people grow up in, is a factor in someone’s mental health. There has been such a rise in mental health problems and the pandemic has been the main reason for that, so it’s okay if someone is not at their best mental state right now because so many people feel the same way. The pandemic has changed the world and has changed the mental states of so many people and it’s time that people start seeking more treatment for those mental health issues so that people can feel better mentally and physically.

Surveying students:

A recently conducted health survey at BF which involved 100 students concluded that 27 % of students are concerned with their mental health at the moment. The survey also concluded that when asked the question “On a scale from 1-10 (1 being that their mental state was struggling and 10 being that their mental health was great) how would you rate your mental health since Covid happened?” 31% said that they were between 2-5, and 69% said that they were between 6-10.

When asked in the same survey if Covid has affected mental health, 63% of students said that Covid has affected their mental health in a bad way compared to the 37% that said Covid has affected their mental health in a good way. When it comes to school and mental health, 39% of students said that school has not been good for their mental health, while 42% said that school had no effect and 19% said that school was good for their mental health. When the students were asked the question, “Do you think that you have people around you that can help you with your mental health?” 71% said yes, 25% said I’m not sure, and 4% said no.

 the 25% and 4% may feel like there aren’t people around that are willing to help, but teachers and guidance counselors especially will be able to help with your mental health if you talk to them about your struggles. You may feel alone if you are struggling with mental health, but just know there are people around you that are either struggling as well with mental health or are willing to listen to your struggles even if you don’t know it yet. 

Many students were willing to share their experience(s) or struggling with mental health and the honesty was well appreciated. An anonymous student said, “During COVID I felt sort of trapped and was definitely looking at life in a different aspect that I never did before. I’m not overly concerned about my mental health, but I have been struggling a little with trying to stay positive. It’s hard to deal with all of these deaths and terrible humans killing each other on the news all the time, but I think that I’ve been learning to cope with it recently. In quarantine, I had really bad days and really good days, but overall COVID-19 definitely did have an impact on my mental health and on my outlook on, well, living life.” 

Maeve Cunningham said, “Recently I have been feeling a bit lonely and I have been pretty distracted. I just wish I could go back to school safely so I could see my friends again. It’s kinda hard sitting at a desk all day and don’t really feel a connection to my classmates because I don’t really speak to anyone on my google meets.”

 Another anonymous student said, “My mental health is great when I’m around my friends and family. But when I’m not, all I do is worry about my grades, if my teachers approve of my work, and when I turn in anything lately, I feel anxious and scared my grades might drop.” 

Daniel Loughin said, “I think less social interaction and being less active overall due to COVID has impacted my mental health in a negative way. However, as things begin to reopen and school moves slowly back to normal, I would say I have been happier overall to participate in as many activities as I can.” 

Jett Lincoln said, “Especially during COVID-19, my focus levels have dropped a significant amount. I am finding it much harder to pay attention to the teacher in school, and it worries me a bit” 

Lily Cullinane said, “It’s really frustrating that I can’t see anyone anymore. I used to really enjoy school and have a lot of fun there, but with no interactions between me and my friends, I don’t wanna go to school anymore!” By hearing how other students feel about their mental health at the moment and since Covid shows that everyone is struggling and everyone is struggling in their own way as well. Many students also had events going on in their family life during Covid that also played a part in their mental state right now, so it’s important to realize how people’s lives affect mental health. 

There was something an anonymous student said that was really important for all students to hear. That student said, “Bad mental health doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s hard to catch it. That moment where you realize that you’re not okay is one of the scariest things someone can experience, and it can send you into a downward spiral.” This is such a powerful statement because of how honest it was and because of how truthful it was. Bad mental health really does sneak up on someone and can cause someone’s life to fall apart which is why it is so important for people to become aware of their feelings and mental well-being. 


Teacher Interviews:

Since students’ mental health was impacted by the pandemic, it is also important to bring attention to how teachers feel about mental health and how teachers are dealing with struggling students. Because of this, Mr. Mahler (Wellness teacher) and Mrs. Corcoran (Ridge 8 English teacher) were interviewed on how they felt about the predominant issue of mental health in students. 


The first question that Mr. Mahler was asked was, “Do you think that mental health is just as important as physical health and why?” Mr. Mahler responded saying, “There are times that I think mental health is more important. You know, if I had my ability to be emotionally ready right, I would want to be okay up here (points to head) almost more than physically ready, but obviously one plays off the other. So the easy answer is that both are extremely important, and if one falters, the other one will soon, and if one builds, the other one will build as well. There are times where I think that if a person is mentally stable up here (points to head), they will then be able to move and keep themselves physically healthy. So it’s a great question. I don’t know if there’s one that’s more important. I don’t think there is. But they’re equally important to each other. And that’s when we talk about wellness. We talk about balancing the mind, the body, and the social because you can’t have one without the other. And they are so dependent upon each other. They can bring each other up and they can bring each other down.”


The second question Mr. Mahler was asked was, “Do you think that mental health is just as important as physical health and why?” He responded saying, “I’ve thought about this, I’ve tried to think about what I see different in the kids when I come in. And the one thing I can say is that people are quieter than normal. I don’t know why they don’t talk as much to each other, even though they want to be with their friends. But in a crowd, I think everybody is so much less willing to talk and be interactive and they’ve kind of gone into their own little world a little bit. And I’ve really noticed that if you walk in the gym, you see people just on their phones not talking to anybody. And there are people all around them, but they’re not talking to them. They’re all just on their phones. So mentally, it just seems like everybody has gotten so kind of into their own world and has kind of forgotten almost that personal interaction is really so important and how to actually do that because we’ve come so reliant on these kinds of things (holds up a phone) to have those personal interactions. How can you have a personal interaction on a phone? We’ve done it, it’s easy, but I don’t know that it’s as good as what I know we had.”


And finally, when asked the final question, “Do you think that exercise would help improve someone’s mental health and why?” Mr. Mahler responded saying “Yes, flat out, yes. Science has told us that I can give you a hundred different studies that have shown that when your physical health goes up, your mental and emotional goes up. And like I said before, both are dependent on each other and both have been proven to increase the other. I know that anecdotally, I know that at the beginning of this pandemic, I got actually really into working out more and running more and I felt better and I’ve actually gotten away from that now and I’m more sluggish. I’m not as on top of things, and I really do believe it’s because I’ve stopped working as hard as I was for a while. So I need to get myself back in there, get myself motivated, get outside, run a little bit and be more active because I know science tells me that your mental health improves your physical health.”


When Mrs. Corcoran was interviewed, the first question she was asked was, “What would you do if a student were to tell you that they need a mental health day because they are struggling with their mental health?” She responded saying, “I would tell you that my first instinct would be to check in with that student a little bit if I had fostered a safe relationship where I knew they could open up to me. We all try to do that. It’s much harder this year because of our rebuilding relationships over the screen. But I think my first inclination would be to just check in a little bit more, to make a note to check in a little bit more with that particular student. I would also validate their feelings. So if they were coming to me to say that they needed a break, I would definitely allow them to be heard. And so, therefore, I would probably do a lot of listening. And then I would typically ask students to reflect a little bit on what that actually means. So I think what one thing that I’m learning about my own mental health is that the idea of reflection or writing or journaling when I’m feeling, you know, not necessarily emotionally strong, but that the idea of me just kind of tapping into what’s really going on and then reflecting on that for myself is a really important tool. So I would offer that as a suggestion to the student, maybe sit in a journal about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking, what they’re experiencing inside both their mind and their body. And sometimes that’s just a way of releasing and moving through some of their feelings.”


The second question that she was asked was, “What advice would you give to a student struggling with mental health or a mental illness?” She responded saying, “My advice would be to just make sure that you’re not struggling alone. And there’s a lot of different ways that you can build a support system. And sometimes that’s through peers and sometimes that’s through a safe adult in your life. But I think that the first thing I would say is that, you know, it is not uncommon. I would want kids to know that they’re not alone, that there are a lot of people, not just kids, struggling with their own mental health or mental well-being, especially right now. And I would suggest that those kids really work on advocating for themselves, saying what they need. I’m a big believer in asking for what you need, identifying what you’re feeling, and then asking for what you need because sometimes other people in your life can’t read your minds. And as much as we want to help, sometimes we don’t know how to help. Everybody has different ways and there are different things that they need, so I think that it’s really important that as individuals, as adults and students, that we learn to identify how we’re feeling and then ask for what we need.”


The third question she was asked was, “What effect do you think school or schoolwork has on the mental health of students?” She responded saying, “I mean, right now in the pandemic, I think it has a lot to do with our mental health. I mean, we know that screen time is on the rise this year, and we also know the impacts of screen time on the mental well-being of anybody. So I think that it’s for sure impacting students. And I think that there’s a lot to be said about just becoming aware of how you’re feeling when you’re on the screen so much. And I think that, as schools are schools, we can continue to be super-mindful that our kids are on the screens a lot and continue to build in opportunities for kids to get off the screen when they can. But the reality is this is the one way this year that we’re having schools so we can’t forego screen time. So I would think that has a lot of impact on the mental health of students. And then I think the isolation and trying to do school work in isolation has a huge impact on the mental health of students this year. We’re not used to that, regardless of your whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. In years past we collaborated in the classroom. That’s not happening as much. So there’s a lot of isolation that I think is impacting students in terms of schoolwork, doing things alone.”

Teachers are also aware of how mental health has changed in students, and they are aware of its importance and that students are struggling, so student’s should not feel alone when there are teachers that can help them. Especially with Covid, students and teachers are adjusting, so there are people that understand that it may be hard right now and that some students are not being mindful of their mental wellbeing when they should be. By interviewing teachers on mental health, we are also opening up the door of saying that mental health affects adults as well in some way as well. Anyone can struggle and adults, young adults, and children need to make sure they are aware of how they are feeling so that there can not be an even larger decline in one’s mental state. 


With mental health and mental illness comes the topic of suicide. Suicide and self-harm may be very triggering for some people which is why there won’t be much detail on the topic, but it is important to realize that if someone’s mental health is spiraling badly, that person may become more susceptible to self-harm, suicide, or suicidal thoughts. The National Institute of Mental Health says that according to the CDC, “Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.” That is such a tragedy and people must do everything they can to make sure that a loved one, friend, or classmate does not die that way., 

Reach out to a friend or classmate when they are strugglings. Make sure that they know if you are there to help them and if you are there to listen to them so they know that they are not alone and that they have people supporting them. This is also why it is important to be more cautious of the things that are said to others. People do not always know what is happening to someone mentally or at home, so it is important now, even more than ever that students come together as a school community to bring each other up rather than tearing each other down. One mean comment could turn into more mean comments which may trigger a student into rehashing a mental illness or may cause a student to develop a mental illness which may lead to suicide or self-harm. Know how dangerous mental illness and spiraling mental health can become if there is no outreach for help or treatment. Know that being a good listener and good friend may save someone’s life whether you or that person knows it or not. 

If you are experiencing trouble or a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to for more help.


All and all, mental health has grown to be such a huge issue in the world and over the past year, the issue has been getting more and more concerning especially with students and Gen Z. Mental health has also become a challenging topic since it affects so many students and affects so many people in their daily lives.  Hopefully hearing BF students and teachers about their feelings on mental health makes people realize how common of an issue mental health is, even at BF. 

Students need to learn from each other and teachers as well when it comes to the topic of mental health so that more and more people become more educated and become more aware of how actions might affect a person struggling with mental health or mental illness. Covid has changed life forever and there has been an even bigger change in mental health over the past year and it is important to realize how that affects people’s daily lives.

 Knowledge is power so being educated on mental health can help yourself and help others struggling. Struggling with mental health and having a mental illness DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE ALONE!! Struggling with mental health and having a mental illness does make someone weaker as a person, it makes them an even stronger person since there is another life occurrence that has to be addressed in that person’s daily life. The tragedy and issue of mental health in the world may not be as big of an issue if people get help and if people learn more on the topic, so don’t wait until it is too late to get help or to learn about mental health.