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The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

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ISSUE 3: Mental Health at Robinson

As we approach the exam season, here is how Robinson approaches mental health
An+illustration+of+a+stressed+teenager+crying+into+her+hands.+This+represents+the+importance+of+mental+health+as+this+is+what+many+teenagers+feel+nowadays.
Photo Janiece Mitchner
An illustration of a stressed teenager crying into her hands. This represents the importance of mental health as this is what many teenagers feel nowadays.

Editor’s Note: TW, suicide, eating disorder and self-harm are topics addressed in this article. 

Assignments piling up on top of a busy sports schedule, grades on the line, club responsibilities growing, your academic future bearing down on you. This is the reality of the modern student, and it is stressful. 

Mental health and anxiety have become an issue of increasing importance at Robinson and in high schools all around the world. 

In a survey conducted by YouthTruth, 56% of high school students cited “feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious” as the largest obstacle they must overcome in school. 

Students who are affected by depression and anxiety tend to exhibit specific, identifiable characteristics. 

“A lot of times you’ll see them with withdrawal or they disengage. Sometimes they become moody with depression. Oftentimes, they lose an appetite or they gain an appetite. They sleep a lot. They’re lethargic, unmotivated, they don’t want to come to school,” said Lori Stewart, veteran Robinson Social Worker. “They know they need to do better, but they just can’t find the energy or the effort or the motivation to do better.”

While there are many signs of poor mental health with a student’s unusual performance in school, social signs can present themselves as well. 

“The one thing that I’ve seen is they tend to isolate. They oftentimes want to be alone and don’t engage, even with their close friends and peers,” said Clayton Wilson, a part-time Social Worker at Robinson.

While social workers are a very important aspect of addressing student mental health on campus, it is often left up to teachers and peers to recognize the signs of a student struggling. 

“Physical dejection is the first thing [I look out for],” said Eric Smithers, IB English Teacher. “If a student walks into my room, most of the time I’m going to say something just as simple as ‘good morning’ or ‘what’s going on,’ and if they nudge past me and I can see red eyes, I can see their head down, they’ve totally ignored me, they’ve got their hood up, [then that sets off red flags].”

While these signs are worrying, they are also pretty general. One of the most difficult things is distinguishing between someone who is just having a bad week – a normal thing – versus someone in danger of hurting themselves. To help with this, Hillsborough County has adopted the use of the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) as a proper procedure for addressing students who exhibit enough worrying signs. 

According to the Columbia Lighthouse Project Website, “the C-SSRS…is a simple series of questions that anyone can use anywhere in the world to prevent suicide.”

The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rate Scale (C-SSRS) questions.

However, if a student is particularly isolated, there may not be peers, teachers or counselors who are able to recognize these signs. It is for this reason that it is important for students to take charge of their own mental health.

“Students can stay mentally healthy in many different ways. These include things that release dopamine like exercise or sports, spending time with friends and family, journaling, and many more,” said Savannah Lax (’24), former Co-President of the Not I, but We Club. “While these may not work for every student, it’s important to find what works for you and makes you happy.”

At times, when school and responsibilities become particularly overwhelming, mental health days can also be helpful. 

“Mental health days are extremely important to overall wellbeing. Living under constant stress can be extremely detrimental to one’s emotional state,” Lax said. “Mental health days should be taken when a student feels like there’s too much stress upon them and they need to recover.”

With mental health being such a large issue for students, it is not only important that schools are able to provide professional counselors for affected students to speak with, but also make sure that students are aware of them. 

“If a student is having issues…[they] can just say ‘I’m really struggling today and I need to talk to somebody’ and teachers will give you a pass and you can come down to the office. I’m here five days a week,” Stewart said. “We have three different independent outside agencies that come in and offer mental health support. So you want to gain insight and assistance from people who are trained to offer insight and assistance rather than getting it from your 14 or 15-year-old friend.”

When having depressive thoughts, while speaking to friends about one’s feelings can help, consulting a counselor can often provide a more mature perspective on the situation. 

“When you’re having a mental health crisis, you really want somebody that is a professional. They’ve been trained…oftentimes when you go to your friends, you’re getting advice from somebody who has no education and no experience in the field, and they’re just drawing on what they’ve done which may not necessarily be an appropriate thing,” Stewart said. “If one student says, ‘Well you know, I cut [myself] and that helps me,’ so now you’re going to have another student that’s going to get involved in cutting. So those are two unhealthy mechanisms.”

Ultimately, in an increasingly stressful environment, the most important thing students must do (no matter how they do it) is pay greater attention to their mental health. 

“I feel that because of other factors like school, family, sports and more, students oftentimes don’t prioritize mental health,” Lax said. “It’s not something that we always think about taking care of when we have so many other responsibilities in our lives. However, mental health is one of the most important things we have to take care of in order to stay happy and healthy.”

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About the Contributors
Vikram Sambasivan
Vikram Sambasivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Vikram Sambasivan is a senior at Robinson and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Knight Writers. This is his third year on staff and his third year as an editor. A passionate storyteller, Sambasivan's writing varies across a variety of sections, but he finds his comfort most in news stories, where he delves mostly into current events. "My favorite is perhaps news writing. Some may say it’s plain, and a bit boring, but I find the simplicity to be elegant and a reprieve from the frilly writing that is sometimes preferred in a typical high school English class," Sambasivan said. Outside of the journalism room, you can see Sambasivan serving as the president of Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society, rowing down the Hillsborough River for Team Tampa or even conducting research at the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida. Despite his demanding schedule, Sambasivan likes to wind down and relax by indulging in a number of movies or TV shows. "Rowing is probably tied with tennis as my favorite activity (although it’s not as fun to watch).  The feeling of the cool morning breeze on your face while rowing in the calm, quiet waters isn’t something I’ll soon forget," Sambasivan said. "Watching TV and movies are some of the other things I enjoy. My favorite show changes every day depending on how I’m feeling. Most movies that I watch speak to a different part of me, so I don’t think I could choose a favorite." Sambasivan has set multiple goals for this year's staff. He is looking forward to being in charge and being able to recreate the fun experience of journalism for new staff members. His biggest goal, though, is to be able to help everyone reach their greatest potential by making them stronger writers. "I would like to make them better than me. That’s the hallmark of a good teacher: having your students exceed you. If I can create an environment where people are excited to come in and produce content every day, where they are excited to learn, then I will be happy," Sambasivan added. Although his future is unclear at the moment, Sambasivan hopes to be able to combine his love for STEM and journalism in his future career. "I’m a little sad to be leaving high school. I’ll miss the friends and connections which I have made once I go to college, but this year, for me, is mainly about the future," Sambasivan said. (Profile by Cecilia Cheng)
Janiece Mitchner
Janiece Mitchner, Senior Staff Writer
Janiece Mitchner is a junior at Robinson and a senior staff writer for Knight Writers. This is her second year on staff. While Mitchner was placed in journalism by chance, she has enjoyed the last year making drawings for the newspaper. "Since I suck at writing, I draw for the newspaper," Mitchner said. Mitchner has been drawing for five years and hopes to earn the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) Artist of the Year award in the future. "I usually draw characters, superheroes, anime characters and generally whatever looks interesting to me. It calms me when I draw and listen to music," Mitchner said. Besides art, Mitchner enjoys relaxing, volunteering for Girl Scouts and listening to music; particularly, her all-time favorite artist is Justin Bieber. The rest of Mitchner's time not designated towards art, school and music is put towards working at Qdoba, where she tends to work 20 hours a week. Mitchner has had to move multiple times due to her dad's military obligations. She has been living in Tampa for the last two years but does miss her last home in North Dakota. "Moving to Tampa has been kind of hard for me," Mitchner admitted. "I definitely miss having some snow, I'd rather be cold than hot." Besides North Dakota, Mitchner has also lived in Texas at two different times. Despite the numerous moves, Mitchner has stayed close with her family, including her younger brother and sister. Janiece, however, draws her ultimate inspiration from her mother. "She is my role model and is always able to balance all my siblings' requests. She's also very good at managing her time," Mitchner said. Mitchner is looking forward to graduating next year and plans to continue doing art actively as well as go on the culinary trip to Japan. "I hope that by the end of high school, my artwork will be in an art portfolio for college," Mitchner said. Profile by (Anika Sanka)
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