Utah Teens Mental Health In the Classroom

(Themes of suicide and mental health issues)


Cierra Clements, Editor

In today’s world, we have really progressed and moved forward with spreading mental health. But, are we just spreading the message, or working towards improvement? From what I have experienced, there are two main things that come to my mind, and likely yours when you think about teenagers’ mental health: The teen’s home life, and school. I wanted to further investigate the things that affect students’ mental health in school.


One google search will tell you that Utah was in the top 3 suicide rates for teenagers during the pandemic. A study was done by the YBRSS and it was shown that 27.7% of high school students have either had serious thoughts about suicide or have actually attempted suicide.


We all know that teenagers tend to act more on their emotions than adults, and most adults tend to think, “They’re just children they’ll grow out of it.” But if it is a known fact that teenagers have more hormones, therefore tending to become more reactive and emotional, shouldn’t adults be putting more effort and energy into how to guide them?


At my school, in Taylorsville (Utah), and at many other places across the country, it’s not the lack of resources for getting help, it is seeking those resources. Minors are vulnerable and often scared to even admit they need help. So how can we reshape the way we deal with teens and suicide?


In school, the most important thing for a student is the teachers. The type of teacher that a student is at any time in their life can reshape the way that students think and feel about not only their education but themselves. A passage on teacher-student relationships by the American Psychological Association states, “Relationships with teachers are fundamental to their success in school, and as such, these relationships should be explicitly targeted in school-based prevention and intervention efforts.”


Tessa Shupe (left) and Mrs. Lavely (right)

I asked if the students would be comfortable with talking to their teachers if they were struggling mentally. Tessa Shupe, A Junior at Taylorsville High, replied, “Yes, I would feel comfortable just because of the close relationship I have with one of my teachers. If I didn’t have that relationship, I would be in a lot worse place, and wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to any of my other teachers.”


After surfing through articles with the question, “What are the responsibilities of a teacher in the classroom?” the majority of the answers were things such as: Communicating progress, adapting to different classes, planning and instructing lessons, etc. But rarely do we see making a personal connection and building trust with our students.


 A student in the UK was interviewed for an article where she goes on to explain how her teacher saved her life. “She actually listened to what I said and remembered everything I’d said and was actually having a conversation with me, which had never happened to me before.” She further goes on to state, “I would have been in exactly the same position as three of my friends are now, which is dead at 20,”. Further proving that teachers’ relationships with their students can have a heavy effect on their future and mental health.


When asked about how they feel about school resources, Tessa Shupe responded, “I feel like they just don’t give a crap. They say that they do, but they don’t make gestures to try and help. They’ll advertise, but they don’t really care.” She later says, “I feel like if I did talk to the admin they would immediately tell my parents anything that I would have to say.”


When I asked all three of my interviewees if they think that age had a factor in how a teacher connected with the students, they all answered the same: Younger teachers are easier to talk to. I asked Thomas Anderson, another Junior at Taylorsville, what makes him feel heard and comfortable when talking to an administrator. He replied, “The way that they respond is important. Their body language, and maintaining eye contact,”.


After conducting these interviews, it is further proving my point that we do have these resources, but these teens do not feel comfortable with opening up to admin. 


To combat these issues, we need to reshape the way that we talk to each other in the school setting. I and many of my interviewees all agree that a counselor should be like a therapist: confidential until it reaches a necessary point on contacting parents. Not only that, but I think that teachers should go through specific training, especially the older generation of teachers, on how to create a safe environment and bond with their students so that we can stop losing innocent, young lives.


This is not something that should be swept under the rug. This is a matter of lives on the line-young lives. 19,320 hours are spent in the classroom throughout the average childhood. For these children’s sake, and our economy’s state, let’s make every second count. Children and teens are the future of society. The older generations depend on us to take control when they are old and gray. 


Love Hard is an organization that provides many forms of counseling to high schools. One of the many programs they offer is Parent Nights, where they bring mental health professionals to help guide parents on tools to help their children that are struggling. Check out their website, and donate to “Love Hard” to bring more awareness of suicide and self-harm to Utah High Schools.