HardyGroup is always keen to give a shout out and share resources about psychological health and well- being. Both of Jerome’s publications deal with this topic. His first book was written for young law students. The Wellness Doctrines for High School Students is his second book and was published in May 2018. I was at the launch of his book which took place at his alma mater school.
HardyGroup supports resources such as the Wellness Doctrines for High School Students because like everyone, we are concerned about the growing problems for young Australians navigating a world that has totally shifted – the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings complexity that is unprecedented, and with that, emerging social and emotional challenges for children and young adults.
We all know students at high school stage and are daunted by staggering statistics such as:
- One in four young people aged 15 – 19 report a serious mental health issue (Black Dog Institute 2017)
- Over a quarter of a million young Australians have been identified as having experienced and anxiety disorder. By year 8, half of all mental health conditions will start to present.
The following is a summary of some of what Jerome said at the book launch:
“The high school environment in Australia, by its very nature, can reinforce and exacerbate the competitive, perfectionist tendencies that many young people have, such as myself.
Although I was a pretty shy kid, I was fiercely determined to be the best at every single thing I put my mind to. I wanted to be number one in sports, academics, the works. This was made harder by the fact that my school mates were, and remain, incredible high-achievers.
Going to law school only perpetuated those traits I was already susceptible to. I’ve been able to reign in those traits (since that time). But the pressure that exists at high school to achieve, both internal and external, can be overwhelming to the point of suffocating.
- In a classroom of 30 students, 7 will be suffering from mental health issues. Of those 7, only 2 will seek help, leaving 5 students suffering in silence.
- 1 in 5 Australians will have suffered from depression by the age of 18.
- 75% of mental health issues occur before the age of 25.
- In spite of these figures, young people are less likely than any other age group to seek professional help.
It’s easy for us as adults to tell teenagers in high school that doing well in year 12 is not the be all and end all, for the reality is that final exams are likely the biggest, most serious thing kids will have done in their lives up until that point, and of course it is going to seem like the end of the world if they don’t succeed. This is arguably made worse by the fact that Australian states and territories rank students numerically for university admission which, literally and metaphorically, provides a way for teenagers to measure their perceived self-worth.
In the context of Australia’s mental health conversation, we could indefinitely debate the merits of our educational system. But that’s not what this book is about. This book is about fostering and inspiring individual responsibility in a high school student, to take the initiative with proactive self-care, so they can be not only healthy and happy, but also productive and successful.
It is all well and good for schools to have in-house mindfulness and meditation sessions; in fact, it’s excellent. But the reality is that not everyone likes mindfulness and meditation. I, for one, get nothing out of it. I get a lot more value out of playing team sports and reading books. For students, if they are similarly uninspired, they won’t be motivated to do what is needed for their wellness.
Wellness for high school students can, in this sense, not only be fun, but help develop personal and professional skills.
Now, this is not to say that health and wellbeing is your problem, and you’re on your own. Especially when we’re talking about teenagers. My argument is simply that each of us are unique individuals who respond differently to various stimuli, and we thus need to figure out what will not only work best for us, but what will be meaningful and uplifting.
Wellness for high school students can, in this sense, not only be fun, but help develop personal and professional skills, breed a healthy balance, and, most importantly, offer a way to combat the myriad of issues faced while at high school, from the dangers of technology and social media to vocational concerns upon leaving the school gates for the last time.
This book offers an array of ways through which students can manage those issues, with practical solutions and strategies offered throughout based on my personal experience, a couple of dozen interviews with recent high school grads, teachers, principals, parents, careers counsellor and mental health experts, including Dr Happy.
Psychological distress, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, grief and suicide ideation can all be crippling, debilitating afflictions. But there are always people in our lives – siblings, parents, partners, teachers, colleagues, friends – who love and care for us, and will always be there for us.
We, as a society, have made great strides over the past 10-15 years in raising awareness of mental health issues. It’s now time for us as individuals, no matter how old we are, to grab the bull by the horns, equip ourselves with the practical tools we need, and be proactive, rather than reactive, about our health and wellbeing. Such a holistic approach is crucial for high school students, because productivity and success is inextricably linked with health and happiness.
We are people first. Teens in high school must remember that they are people first, and students second, because the latter cannot exist without the former. Thank you.
The first 10 people to email us will receive a free copy of the The Wellness Doctrines for High School Students
Email Julian Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org