When High Schools Don't Take the Time to Understand Your Mental Illness

I graduated high school on June 12th, 2014 and it was easily the best thing that ever happened to me. My high school experience was one I wish I could forget, experiencing the beginning of my self-harm issues and suicide attempts. I’m not saying that high school was the main reasons behind those things, but it was certainly a rather large contributing factor.

After starting at the age of 12, my mother found out I was self-harming when I was 16. She handled the news a lot better than I thought she would, but she insisted on getting in touch with the school and arranging a meeting with my head of year to try and get some support both within the school and coordinating it with the help I was receiving out of school for my depression. I remember her on the phone so clearly because I couldn’t help but resent her for it — I didn’t want anybody to know, but I need not have worried.

She arranged the meeting when I was 16. I am now 21. And I’m still waiting.

Of course, after a few months, I was well aware that this meeting was never going to happen. I know that teachers are busy and I should not have been top priority in their lives, but now it feels wrong to me. In high school I felt so alone, like such an outcast and like nobody would possibly understand if they ever had the time to listen — and that was almost confirmed to me. Because they never took the time to listen. They never even tried.

There were some teachers that I confided in and they were my saving grace. I know in my heart that if they had not been there for me, I never would have lasted all six years of high school. But they were not my head of year or my guidance teacher; and because of that, I never felt able or like I had permission to confide in them completely about what was really going on in a way that I perhaps would have, had they held those positions. So I kept a lot of things to myself and allowed them to eat me alive.

Now I am in my final year of university and looking into a postgraduate degree in education. I am hoping to go to teach in a high school so that I can be there for pupils the way I wish certain teachers would have been there for me. I want to make sure that pupils know I would be there to listen, to confide in and I would do my very best to understand.

I do not resent my head of year for never giving me that meeting. For all I know, I would have gone back to my usual high school method of making up stories to explain the cuts away, insist that I was fine and escape back to my classes. But I can’t help but feel concern that, if I’m still waiting, how many other people are still waiting to be heard?

I hope that, one day, I can be the teacher who is there to listen. And I hope that there are many others out there, waiting for the chance to hear — no matter what the issue is.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741

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