Why Mental Health Counselling Should Be Mandatory For Students

Wilson Zheng ’21

Although difficult to embrace, numbers that have significantly increased in schools have not been the average GPA, nor the college acceptance rate, but the suicide rate. Between 2007 and 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal, the suicide rate among people ages 10 to 24 years old had climbed a staggering 56%. On top of that, the number of students diagnosed with depression between ages 12 to 17 has increased by 62% from 2009 to 2017.

Some people might find these numbers to be surprising, and are thinking to themselves that these events only happen on television, distant from their own life. The truth is, about 1 in 30 people aging from 3 to 17 years old experience some kind of depression, and that number is a lot higher if we only look at middle and high schools. Four years ago, a classmate of mine killed himself by jumping off a building; recently, the number of similar occurrences have increased significantly. It had been shocking to even hear about these events, but in reality I have already seen way too many of them around me.

So what could be done by schools to provide the absolute maximum amount of support to every student, and to create a healthy learning and/or living environment? As a teenager myself, I believe the simple “raising awareness” is nowhere near a reliable answer. Exposing the problems may bring more attention of the public to them, but how exactly will it help the troubled ones? Will that simply be enough to liberate their minds? Or will it become another source of stress and pressure adding onto the tower? The minds of teenagers are much more complicated and sensitive than one might assume. Exposing one’s problems previously hidden only in their own minds could very much backfire on its original intentions, exacerbating the situation.   

To simplify the problem’s complexity and formulate a solution with only one single action is a bold move, but here I propose the addition of an obligation in schools, which takes advantage of the resources available and the limited but adequate control schools have over students, that counselling sessions for students be made mandatory at Berkshire. Below are three reasons why I believe this could be successful.

First of all, and most importantly, counselling sessions will target every student in the school. Students will have the freedom to choose when they would like to conduct the sessions, but there will be a requirement of at least one session per semester. This ensures a periodic mental check-up for the students, which would be a great way of noticing any premature signs of mental health problems, or even discovering ones which have already developed.

Secondly, I believe these counselling sessions could act as an excuse for students to voice out their concerns. The possible thought of “since it’s mandatory, I’ll have to go” will provide students who are initially hesitant of using counselling services a proper reason and motivation to seek for help.

Thirdly, mandatory counselling sessions could possibly create a culture in the school that acknowledges the importance of mental health. These obligations could positively affect how students view themselves or others when it comes to seeking help, the ones who might feel embarrassed for seeing counsellors will feel a lot more accepted, for example.

Looking at the rocketing growth of suicide and depression rates among teenagers, we must pay immediate attention to these issues. Finding a feasible solution will take time, but we won’t get any further until we’ve taken actions. I believe constructing mandatory counselling sessions will be a great first step. This could not only be for the purpose of mental health issues, but also helping students with more common problems such as time and stress management, acting as a great resource for a variety of reasons.