Editorial: Mental Illness & Stigma: A Letter from The Editor
By Gabriella Adams, Staff Writer / 01/03/2020
Hi! My name is Gabriella Adams, and I am a journalist here at Hermon who likes to focus on teenage health and topics that are often very misunderstood. The main focus of my previous two articles has been mental health, a topic that has been very close to me since I can remember. Unfortunately, in some of the responses to my most recent survey, some stigma shines through. I felt like I needed to respond to some common misconceptions about mental illness.
I’d like to disclaim that while I am not a professional on mental health, I’ve lived with some of these illnesses since early middle school. It’s not something I’m ashamed to say, because I don’t like to give in to unfair stereotypes and stigma that would otherwise make me feel small. Mental illness is a small part of anyone who may live with it, and sufferers have so much more to offer than just a diagnosis. This being said, let’s get into some common misconceptions that I have heard, and that have been submitted to me via online surveys.
Quote 1: “Get a Hobby!”
This one was actually recently submitted to me on my survey where I asked Hermon High students how they deal with seasonal depression, if they have it. The purpose of this question was to get an idea of what different students use for coping mechanisms; however, one response was something anybody with mental illness has heard more than a few times.
“Go outside and have fun in the snow. Some people could really use some hobbies.”
First of all, snow is very cold. No thank you. I don’t think hypothermia is going to improve my mood by a long shot.
But in all seriousness, while I’m sure this lovely commenter had no ill intent, a lot of people don’t realize that telling somebody to “get a hobby” is incredibly hurtful. Tons of people I know with mental illness have hobbies! Lots of people use their hobby, whether it be art, sports, reading, or anything else, as a coping mechanism to make them feel better.
While having hobbies most certainly helps, this phrase doesn’t help us at all. The tone of this message says to me that I should stop feeling sorry for myself, which is NOT what mental illness is at all! In so many different cases, people say things like this: with anxiety, it’s “just calm down”, with depression, it’s “just cheer up”, and etc. People do not realize how these phrases are more hurtful than empowering, which I’ll touch on later.
People with mental illness usually have hobbies—why do you think I’m writing this right now? Just because I have interests doesn’t make my anxiety go away. It takes a lot more than “a pair of running shoes and some fresh air” to cure a mental illness.
Quote 2: “Cheer Up!”
Everyone who’s ever gone through some mental health issues just clutched their pearls and fell out of their seats at this one. Cheer up? Thank you! What a perfect cure for my mood, I never thought of that!
“Since I don’t feel depressed about this beautiful season, I cherish the fact that we are lucky enough to experience a real winter with snow and ice. I love to go out ice fishing up North or snowmobiling, and also devote time to winter sports. Most people in this world don’t get to experience this beautiful season. We should look at it more as a different positive experience and not a negative one.”
I actually love the positivity in this comment! I think this is probably a lovely person, but they may be just a tad misinformed. I actually love the winter—the snow on the trees is beautiful and the coziness of curling up with a hot cocoa by the fire is like a dream.
The issue with seasonal depression isn’t that we don’t like winter—in fact, usually those affected by seasonal depression have this illness year-round. Nobody is moping around because they can’t stand looking at the snow outside. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain usually caused by vitamin D deficiency from the lack of daylight we see here in Maine.
I love that you’re thinking positively, commenter, but you kind of have the wrong idea here. See, if all we had to do was look at the world more positively, psychiatrists would be put out of business. To a depressed person in their lowest state of mind, it’s impossible to think positively about how things could get better.
So, in conclusion, please stop using these ignorant phrases, or anything that may seem similar. Try to educate yourself about how people with mental illness feel before you start talking about it! It’s way more complex than you think.
If you’d like to learn more about mental illness and begin to understand and advocate for it, you can look at the following resources:
Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
How to be a Senior
By Halie Jackson, Staff Writer / 11/12/2019
Every adult in our lives tells us senior year is our best year, but how do seniors enjoy it when they’re drowning with loads of deadlines, college planning and pressure?
Almost all high school students count down the days until senior year begins, but when the day actually arrives, they want to go back to the first day of freshman year.
It is easy to let senior year pass by, but there are ways to make the most of our experience here.
With senior year comes college prep, deadlines, scholarships, good attendance, and grades, but you also have to find time to enjoy yourself. Get yourself out there, get involved with clubs, sports, and other activities considering it is the last year before you’re thrown into adulthood.
Megan Garbe (Hermon High School English teacher, as well as 2020 senior class advisor) states that she loves seeing seniors be leaders and seeing where they go after high school. Her biggest piece of advice was to “get involved, enjoy it, and be organized.”
Mrs. Garbe suggested that seniors can get involved in many ways like “prom committee to have a voice and see the financial aspect of it all.” Being an advisor she has also seen that getting involved with student government and class office. She believes these few clubs and responsibilities would be essential for an enjoyable senior year.
Some advice for our current and upcoming seniors is to start your journey early!
During the end of junior year and throughout the summer, attend the Common App workshop in August. This workshop is an opportunity put on by our school to fill out one college application and send it to all of your colleges at once. By getting a head start on the Common App, it will make the fall a little bit easier and less stressful.
Not only do you want to start your Common App, but you also want to request your senior letters of recommendations to your teachers early. Another bit of advice is to tour as many colleges as possible! These are some early action steps to get you ahead of the game before you start your senior year.
If you find yourself struggling, meet up with your guidance counselor. They specifically focus on seniors and keeping them on track. Heather Pelletier (guidance counselor at Hermon High School) agrees to “do as much as you can as soon as possible and establish a good routine.” By doing this, you will be kicking “senioritis” in the butt before it starts.
Pelletier explains that guidance prepares for seniors by “creating a folder for each senior, counting class credits, and having individual senior meetings.”
You are not alone in this process; guidance, teachers, friends, and family are with you along the ride.
Don’t stress about these responsibilities too much either. If so, it will take over your mind and make you forget the best parts of senior year. For example enjoying things like class banquet, prom, sports, clubs, and friendships!
Also, try attending a prom committee meeting to get the chance to help make your senior prom special. These events only happen once and will stick with you for the rest of your lives.
People say senior year is your best year of high school and Pelletier agrees. She states she’s “seen a lot of seniors experience a greater degree of independence and responsibility.”
Op-Ed: The Rising Concerns of Vaping in Schools
By Emily Willey, Staff Writer / 11/06/2019
Vaping in schools has become more and more of a problem in the past few years. Administration has done everything they can think of, but still can’t seem to completely make it end. With all the news stories going around recently about people dying or almost dying, we should want to make it end too.
Vaping made headlines back in 2003 but wasn’t made big until around 2010. Now in 2019, we have thousands of more devices that keep getting more and more dangerous as they’re released.
The most common device right now is the Juul. This device is taking over kid’s lives, getting them in trouble, and even killing them. According to the National Center for Health Research, what makes this device so harmful is not only the harm it causes to your lungs, but Juul also has over twice the amount of nicotine concentrated into one pod than other e-cigarettes. This makes it so much more addictive, causing people to come back and buy more.
Out of 34 Hermon High School students interviewed, 8 have vaped here, and 22 think it’s becoming a problem.
“It’s a distraction to students, and shouldn’t have been brought to a learning environment in the first place,” said one student.
High schoolers are taking advantage of the secrecy and easy access new vapes have, so much to the point of bathroom doors and mirrors being taken off the walls so students can’t vape in them anymore. Even these measures aren’t stopping the problem.
It seems that some students here are vaping to try to fit in, what they don’t realize is that it leads to having an actual nicotine addiction. 27 out of the 34 students believe the kids who do vape are doing it to fit in, and aren’t doing it for any other reason.
Advice To Seniors II
By Shayla Moore, Staff Writer / 11/06/2019
This article is about helping seniors through this very important time in their life. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re going to do after high school because that’s what I’m here for — to guide you on the right path.
How much sleep do teenagers need?: The average amount of sleep that we seniors need is about 9 ½ hours. This is hard for us to achieve because most of us have jobs and have late schedules so it’s very hard for us to get that amount of sleep. My best recommendation is to try and take as many naps as you can so you can get that energy back.
STOP DRINKING SO MUCH COFFEE!!!: I’m not telling you to stop drinking coffee completely. Coffee is actually good to drink once in a while because it can help you focus more and concentrate. But too much coffee can make you have insomnia and just make your sleeping schedule even worse. It can also make you irrational and irritable and no one likes a grumpy pants. A perfect article to go look at that talks more about this is Gabriell’s article called “The Effects of Caffeine on Teenagers.”
Don’t start slacking now: I understand it’s senior year and we are all coming down with a bad case of senioritis but don’t let that stop you from getting stuff done. I get it; school can get stressful and I’m not saying miss any days of schools it’s always okay to take a mental health day off. It feels good to just relax and collect yourself. When it’s the weekend you can try and do hobbies you like for me I like to paint while listening to music it really just makes me calm.
Hang in there: By the time you read this, the first quarter will be officially over so that means we only have three more before we graduate. That seems very far away but trust me that’s right around the corner. If you’re not doing so good right now, don’t worry, you’ve got some time to try and catch up.
Next time we will be talking about how we, as a class, need to save up money for our graduation activities and how we can make that happen. We will explore how to spend as much time with your loved ones as possible because after high school you won’t see them as much, and how to try to make new friends because after high school you might lose the friends you graduated with. Just try to enjoy your last year by savoring every minute of it.
Balancing a Full Plate for the First Time
By Reagan Partridge / Staff Writer / 10/15/2019
During every upcoming 9th grader’s Freshman Orientation, the infamous words “get involved” never fail to make an appearance. Administration, staff, and upperclassmen boast about the surplus of clubs and activities, from JV and Varsity Sports, to One Act, to Key Club, but how exactly does one get involved? This question lay heavily on the minds of most underclassmen. Even today as seniors, many students sometimes find difficulty in balancing everything while being committed and involved with all their activities, further complicated by jobs and volunteer work. There are many ways to make a schedule work, but here are 4 things to keep in mind when building a schedule:
Be Honest with Yourself:
With so many options for activities throughout the day, it can be really easy to idealize a perfect schedule where there is time for everything you want to do. The reality is that building and maintaining a full schedule is exhausting and often times is not as fulfilling to someone as a schedule that has a little more air, but is filled with beloved activities.
Be honest with yourself and how much time you really have in a day. Recognizing that not every waking hour can be spent doing Theatre, Baseball, or Art Club is an important first step in building a functioning schedule.
Another thing to do is to assess is yourself and your habits when considering your schedule. Do you need more free time in between activities or does free time lead to procrastination? “Consider if you are maybe a night owl… or you need a lot of sleep to function well?” (Mrs. Pelletier). Factors such as these with impact the functionality of one’s schedule, so it is best to consider them upfront before loading up our plate.
Devising a pecking order for all the activities in your schedule is a must to succeed in time management. Make time for all the must-haves in your day such as school, personal time, and at least 8 hours of sleep; some exceptions may apply, but for the most part everything else is extra. For some students, that extra may be a part-time job, while for others, their extra is H4C.
When deciding your priorities, consider the return on investment (in this case not money, rather time and energy) you get out of the activity. Does the enjoyment or financial gain outweigh the time and energy required? Kylie Hall, a senior here at HHS, has made the decision to not take on a part-time while school is in session. “My parents want me to focus on school and my involvement.” says Hall. Kylie has made academics and her school activities her priority.
Keeping advisors and employers in the loop as to what other activities you have going on is key to making a busy schedule work. Ms. Toole, director of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and seasoned theater advisor is a pro at creating schedules that take into account many different activities. “I do my darndest,” says Toole. “It can take me up to 6 hours to make a rehearsal schedule.”
Advisors like Toole are willing to work with students to involve them, even if they have other activities going on in the background. Toole encourages students to keep an open line of communication with their advisors about what is going on in their life/schedule. Not showing up to activities without a heads up or a discussion before comes off more like a lack of dedication or care for the project or activity rather than the reality, which is likely a conflicting schedule.
Kylie Hall is an example of a heavily involved student with a schedule that sometimes conflicts. She is a member of both Art Club and Hawks 4 Change, groups that both meet on Thursdays after school. “They understand I may not always be able to contribute a ton… Advisors respect the important work being done by other groups…” (Hall). If another group’s work is your priority or the nature of the group requires it to be your priority, make that known to the other advisors in your life before you stretch yourself too thin.
Kids today are growing up with tools such as the internet and mobile devices at their fingertips. Starting a google calendar with your schedule can be a great way to keep it accessible at all times, as well as shareable with anyone who may need access to it. A google calendar (or one on the calendar app that comes with most smartphones) is easy to change when a hole opens up in one’s schedule. It can also be easier to organize information with the ability to customize tab colors for different types of events. Smartwatch users can have their calendar or reminders displayed right on their watch face for easy access.
Although it may seem obvious, utilize email and text for event planning or communication with advisors or employers. Encourage your advisor to start a google classroom or shared google folder for all club and activity events. Google allows one to get notifications instantly about rehearsal schedules, assignments, or other news. The Hermon Hawks app is also a good resource for athletes to stay up to date on practice and game schedules and well as general school announcements.
Staying on top of your schedule removes a lot of unnecessary stress from your life as well as the lives of employers and advisors. Being honest with yourself and your needs, prioritizing important events in your day, communicating with your advisors and employers, and utilizing technology will make the time management process easier to get the hang of and simpler to maintain.
Advice to Seniors
By Shayla Moore, Staff Writer / 10/15/2019
This article is about helping seniors through this very important time in their life and to tell them it’s okay if they don’t know what they’re going to do after high school because that’s what I’m writing to do — to guide you on the right path.
Don’t plan your whole life out right now because it will change:
A lot of seniors feel like they have to know and plan out their whole life. We are SO young. Think about it this way, you’ll never be surrounded by this many people your age again, so enjoy it.
Start job searching:
Seriously if you don’t have a job by now, I really suggest to try to get one because when you’re out in the real world your mommy and daddy aren’t going to pay stuff for you. Employees aren’t going to want to hire a person with no experience of working. Yes, I know it’s a lot more responsibilities to take on but it will get you ready for the outside world once you graduate.
Start saving up:
Investing now can have a lot of pay off at the end of your college career! If you don’t already have one, open up a savings account and put in $20 every payday. You’ll thank yourself when you’re trying to pay off books, rent, and even those evil student loans — or just in case of an emergency.
Don’t allow yourself to make stupid mistakes:
Just really think things over before doing it because if you make the wrong decision, that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Never let others convince you that underachievement and slacking off are COOL traits. There’s nothing cool about being an idiot.
Next time on senior advice we will be talking about how much sleep we actually need, why we shouldn’t drink so much coffee. We will also tackle how it’s not okay to start getting lazy because of senioritis and if you already want to leave, how to hang in there.