Is it possible that the quality of teen (and teacher) mental health follows a timetable?
The 2nd or 3rd Monday in January (depending on the year) is designated ‘Blue Monday’ in the United Kingdom. It is statistically the most depressing day of the year. Christmas is a distant memory, the largest credit card bill you will get all year has just appeared in your inbox and you are also likely (certain for some of us) to have recently broken your last remaining New Years resolution.
Tips on how to beat blue Monday, include eating chocolate for breakfast (done), forcing a smile by biting down on a pencil (doesn’t work) and, my personal favourite, going for dinner with fat friends as they make you feel better about your own weight gain. So if you receive a dinner invitation from me anytime soon you need to jump on those scales.
This year too saw 8th of January labelled ‘Divorce Day’. An article in The Independent states that lawyers have termed it so “because of the spike in couples considering ending their marriages after the festive period.”
Yes, no matter how you look at it January (Januworry) is not an easy time of year. Depending on your perspective, it can be made worse (possibly better for parents) given that it’s ‘back to school’ as the endless post Christmas promotions remind us.
It appears the fairly coercive rigours of school can take its toll on young people. An article in Psychology Today cites 2015 research examining the number of weekly visits for psychiatric reasons at a pediatric emergency mental health department in Los Angeles. It was found that, “…the rate of such visits in weeks when school was in session was 118% greater than in weeks when school wasn’t in session. In other words, the rate of emergency psychiatric visits was more than twice as high during school weeks as it was during non-school weeks.”
“A calendarised form of mental torture, assails my neurons every quarter. Such scheduled assault upon my reason, my mental illness follows seasons!”
These statistics also include suicidal attempts and ideation, both are more frequent among children when school is in session. For boys, who may have a harder time fitting in with the expectations and demands of school, the suicide rate 95% higher during the school months whereas for girls, it was 33% higher. “Stated differently, when girls commit suicide, school is apparently less likely to be a cause than is the case for boys.” Peter Gray.
Teachers too can feel the stress and strain of the school term. Last year as the start of a term was looming I penned this poem for the poetry evening at our local Steampunk Coffee outlet.
“What’s this disturbs my hard won peace,
This growing feeling of dis-ease?
A rising tide of mild anxiety,
Adding weight to my sobriety.
All was well short days ago,
When evenings glimmered and mornings glowed.
But now a shadow obscures my vision,
To pierce my heart with swift incision.
I know it now this unwelcome stirring,
It is a nightmare reoccurring.
Four times a year to be precise,
My mind is held in grip like vice.
A calendarised form of mental torture,
Assails my neurons every quarter.
Such scheduled assault upon my reason,
My mental illness follows seasons!
Michaelmas, Christmas, Pentecost, Lent,
Each rolls round without relent.
The source of stress I now confirm,
It is the start of another school term.”
Let’s remember that school can be a stressful and anxiety provoking environment for all concerned, pupils, parents and teacher alike. Lets work together and be kind to each other this year.
Click on this link ‘13 reasons why not’ if you are interested in finding out more about teen mental health.