Produced by Angel Dwyer of Justice Page Middle School

Following the years of instability with online learning and social isolation, the most basic social emotional skill became a crucial factor in student success in school: how can students effectively cope with everyday stressors in a way that won’t destroy them? My 8th grade students pondered this question and decided students’ well-being often boiled down to a few critical components: adults who will listen, the amount of positive strategies they use to show self-care, and finding qualities within themselves to hone and love. Really, this is advice for all humanity, not just middle schoolers. These are messages of hope and resilience, of challenges to put in the effort to become the best version of themselves, and the realization that no one is an island. May we all gain insight through their wisdom. -Angel Dwyer

Advice for adults for helping teens with their mental health

By L.H.

Artwork by L.H.

These days mental health is more important than ever because it’s hard to understand how you feel and how you feel like you’re the only one struggling.

Some middle schoolers struggle to cope and ask for help so they keep it inside and bottle it up. They’re scared that if they talk to somebody they will judge them or use it against them. For example some teens keep feelings of sadness or feeling like they’re the only one struggling to themselves. If they tell someone how they feel they are worried about being a burden to them.

Many adults try to help and fix things the best they can but sometimes it doesn’t work and then the kid feels even more like they can’t tell the adults because they feel adults will never understand. Some adults give advice that doesn’t help the problem go away and so kids decide not to say anything because sometimes teens are given advice they really don’t see the point of and so they just toss it aside. Most teens don't really want people to help or fix it; they just need somebody to listen.

Once when I was having friend problems, an adult asked me, “whenever you hang out with that friend does your cup feel full, halfway full, or empty?” I really thought about how my cup never really felt full and whenever I left I felt empty like there was no happiness hanging out with that person. It made me realize they weren't a good friend.

The worst thing an adult can say is ‘I know it sucks now but it will get better’ and when you give that advice sometimes you feel like that advice means nothing to you because what's the point of getting better when you're stuck with the feelings that you have right now? Instead, sit down with your teen and ask them, “hey is everything okay?” don't really give them advice.

Most teens just want someone to listen and then ask questions that can help them come up with their own way to solve how they’re feeling and the problem. This can improve their mental health because they feel like they have more control because sometimes when you sit with feelings for a long time then you start to feel like the feeling controls you and it will feel like this forever.

Self-love Matters

By M.S.

Self-love is one of the most important things because it’s harder to love someone else when you don’t love yourself. When you don’t accept yourself, you can end up having a harder time being yourself and you can struggle with your mental health. When you don’t appreciate who you are and how you look, it’s harder to appreciate everything else around you. You don’t always see the best of things.

This is true in middle school because a lot of times, people who don’t feel perfect end up judging someone else and they end up harming themselves and others. In middle school, body shaming and name calling are very normal. Body shaming happens a lot when someone sees you and thinks you should look different. They put you down in order to make themselves rise. Body shaming can look like, “why are you so short?” or “why do you look like that?” or “you’re so fat”/ “you’re so skinny”. Body shaming is wrong because it can hurt someone else and lead to other things like anxiety, eating disorders, and depression, which could even lead to self-harm.

Name calling is a problem because when people don’t understand the meaning of a word they are saying and choose to say it anyway, it can harm people. In middle school, most kids may think it’s a joke or funny when they don’t know the meaning of a word and say it anyway.

Middle schoolers feel stressed out by how they need to act and how they need to be seen so they don’t get called mean names that make them feel unwanted or not needed. All this stress leads to feeling like you don’t know where you belong.

This is why self-love is so important because you need to make sure you know it’s not possible to be perfect, your body will never not change, you’re still developing, and you are worthy of love even when you don’t see it or feel it.

Self Care

By A.B.

Artwork by A.B.

People often ignore self-care because they don’t have time for it, or they think it’s not important. Taking time for yourself is much more important than we think. Teens especially have the most pressure on them to be “perfect.” Since most have social media, it can easily influence the way they see or think of themselves. Even if they don’t have social media, there are other causes of stress, such as school, family, and social lives. It can overwhelm them and, in some cases, lead to them taking extreme measures to “fix” themselves in order to fit certain standards. It ruins teens’ self-image, makes them develop unhealthy habits, and adds to the overall stress of life.

Lots of people picture self-care as a pampering day in the spa with a hot tub and a massage. This can be self-care, but there are also much simpler ways of taking care of yourself. Taking time to stretch, do skincare, or even take a relaxing bath can also be considered self-care. It can relieve stress and tension, relaxing your nerves and helping you become more prepared to face challenges. It can change the way we treat and see ourselves, and encourages us to be more productive.

Mental health is fragile and should not be taken lightly. While more people are opening up about their struggles and therapy is becoming more common, there is still a large portion of people who choose to ignore it completely. There is only so much stress humans can handle, and ignoring it causes tension to build up over time. Self-care doesn't require money and it can be as simple as taking some time every day to read a book you enjoy. If we can develop a healthy relationship with ourselves, it becomes easier to maintain the same with others.

Put In the Work to Change

By H.C.

Taking care of yourself Is one of the hardest things to learn how to do. It's not easy, and those people who seem really good at it? Well, they've been trying over and over again. No matter who you are or what you have, wanting something more is pretty normal. But you know what? Taking care of yourself is something we all need to do—it's like a responsibility.

Have you ever seen someone in a higher math class and wish you could be there too? Well, that person probably wants to do even better or has their own worries. The thing is, everyone can do better, but not everyone feels like putting in the work. I get it; I used only to do stuff if I absolutely had to. Then something happened—I got motivated. It could be meeting someone, losing someone, or just feeling a burst of energy. But you can't just wait for life to change because life doesn't care. If you want something different, you need to make it happen.

When I'm stressed, I go for a run. It helps me take a break from everything; when I return, I can think more clearly. If you're upset with someone, don't argue with them. Using that extra energy for something positive is better.

Someone once told me, "Everyone wants freedom, but no one wants responsibility." After hearing that, I thought about how many people want things but don't do anything about it. Life isn't like a superhero story where you wake up with a different life. If you want things to change and get better, you need to take charge and make it happen.