Help your peers

This rise of relatable and self-deprecating humor has made it hard to distinguish between a light-hearted joke and a genuine call for help.


Colette Reitenour

Student seeks help and is dismissed.

Colette Reitenour, Illustrator

It concerns me to see serious mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety downplayed for the sake of relatable humor. As of a 2018 study, about 20 percent of teenagers encountered symptoms of depression before reaching adulthood. With such a large number of students affected, it’s expected that the topic becomes less stigmatized, though there is a fine line between being open and fueling and minimizing the situation. 

Self-deprecating and cynical jokes have become a common style of humor. Before the stay-at-home orders and virtual classes, it was common to hear jokes at a student’s own expense while passing through the halls or waiting for a class to begin. While often nothing more than a quick sarcastic quip meant to draw out a few chuckles, continuously putting oneself down can have lasting effects on one’s mental state. This self-critical style of humor has been linked to a worse state of mental health, and while correlation certainly does not mean causation, it is important to consider. This humor can leave one eager to find their flaws and nitpick every aspect of their personality. Even if far removed from the cause of bad mental health, the popularity of these jokes signifies its prevalence amongst the student population. 

 Similarly, with so many of us struggling, I fear that we have become dismissive towards our peers. It’s hard to distinguish a genuine call for help from a funny joke, but it’s necessary to check up on each other. Teenagers are much more likely to reach out to others their own age and in similar circumstances, so while teachers and parents may be available, it falls on friends to hold each other up. 

Focusing more on solutions than issues, numerous practices can lead to a happier mindset. It can be easy to focus on the bleak, but keeping a gratitude journal or simply taking a few moments to acknowledge what you’re grateful for each day can dramatically improve your mental health. 

“It’s one of the most evidence-based techniques for being happier, so I encourage students, even though we’re all frustrated by COVID-19, to focus on what you’re grateful for,” Phycology teacher Saige Sprankle shared. “Maybe it’s your health, maybe it’s the sunny day or the taste of coffee. Maybe it’s that you can see, or that you’re not in a wheelchair, or you get more sleep.” 

Current events are stressful and chaotic, but focusing on what you can control can lend itself to a happier life. Take control of your health through exercise, your time through hobbies, or your environment by organizing and moving furniture. Many of us get stuck in a constant loop of terrible news, or “doom scrolling,” so turn off the news and shift your attention to something more lighthearted, or at least different. 

Exercise is also important in maintaining not only physical health, but mental health too. Working out releases endorphins that act to relieve pain and make one happier, and doing so outside increases exposure to Vitamin D. NCBI reports that lack of Vitamin D is related to depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health ailments. 

Finally, get help when you need it. Reach out to those around you for support and don’t downplay your situation. These proposals may seem superficial, but I encourage those of us struggling to make an attempt to better their mental health with these suggestions. If you notice one of your friends or classmates having a hard time, reach out.