Many young girls experience poor mental health during high school. Many people focus on helping each individual, but Ph.D. student Janne Lund wants us to see the bigger picture. Because what is it about high school that leads to poor mental health in girls?
There are many factors that affect how we feel. But today, the challenge is that mental health problems are reduced to how each individual feels. If we want to understand why so many young girls have mental health problems, we need to look at the bigger picture and the underlying factors behind it.”
Janne Lund, Ph.D. student
Self-reported mental health problems have been increasing among young people, and especially girls, for several years. Lund is now an assistant professor, but has worked as a social teacher in a junior high school.
“The increase that was reported in the Ungdata survey is consistent with what I saw at work. Many young women were stressed and depressed. But statistics only tell you what you measure,” says Lund.
Ungdata surveys have collected national data on young people in Norway since 2010. The latest report shows that 17 percent of young people in Norway have been under so much pressure in the past week that they had trouble coping .
Income or education?
An important determinant of young people’s mental health is how they live and grow up. Parents’ income and educational level have long been used as a measure of social conditions.
“We found that parental income affected young people’s mental health more than parental education. It’s clear that young people notice if their family is less well off, but it also means that the government can introduce specific measures. Helping a family financially can significantly help with children’s mental health problems,” says Lund.
Low income often leads to other social inequalities, such as weaker social networks and fewer opportunities to improve their situation. However, it’s not just young people from low-income families who struggle with mental health issues.
Grades above everything else
Stress at school, or challenges related to school performance, accounts for much of the increase in mental health problems among young girls. For her doctoral thesis, Lund interviewed 10 junior high school girls about their daily lives.
“Many of the girls brought the stress into their daily lives. It became very clear that the stress of school is clearly present in their daily lives. There are a lot of things they have to do, and it’s very related to tests. homework and grades,” says Lund.
Students were concerned about managing their time effectively and this was closely related to tests at school. There is a lot of pressure, and the Lund girls interviewed cited tests and grades as key stressors.
“Grades are what matter. The mentality was that if you didn’t get the grade you wanted, it was because you didn’t spend enough free time cramming. That cramming only happened in their free time,” says Lund.
Society values achievement
Grade point average was also a common concern. The students explained that in order to progress, they need to improve their grade point average from year to year. They didn’t talk about the fact that grade requirements go up every year and it seemed like they didn’t take that into account.
Lund believes that this tendency to improve is also felt in society in general.
“A school is not an isolated island. It gets a lot of blame, but the pursuit of achievement and progress characterizes much of society today. I think this gives the school an opportunity to counterbalance this stress. Learning objectives can be good , but what is often lost is curiosity, imagination and experimentation,” says Lund.