At just 17 years old, FaithHoney Anderson, a Senior at Wyoming Virtual Academy, has seen first-hand the toll mental health issues can take on teens. After two of her friends took their lives, she became a student mental health advocate to raise awareness around the issues that are affecting her peers.
Today’s teens are more stressed than ever. There’s constant pressure to be a high performer academically. “Oftentimes, teenagers are more concerned about passing a test than they are about actually learning and obtaining knowledge, and I think that chronic stress turns into health issues,” FaithHoney explained. “Whether it's physical or mental, I think that can often lead to just being overwhelmed.”
The rise of social media has exacerbated this trend and FaithHoney has seen the negative impact it has on student well-being. “Social media is incredibly consuming for people, and I think that can lead to various mental health issues,” she said. While it can help users connect with people around the world, it can also lead people to disconnect from local communities and social circles.
As a student at virtual school, FaithHoney sees several mental health benefits of being online. “The constant human interaction at a traditional school can be overwhelming so it’s great that online students can kind of escape,” she said. “I personally am a little bit of an introvert, so I have to recharge my social batteries. Even spending two hours at the local public high school would exhaust me.”
She has also found that working in a familiar environment like home can help her and her peers better manage stress and anxiety.
FaithHoney gives her school high marks for helping students cope with mental health issues. When she lost a friend to suicide, her teachers proactively reached out to her and helped lighten her workload. They have also implemented a screening program to identify students with suicidal thoughts early enough to intervene. Students who participate in the 10–15-minute check-in program receive extra credit. FaithHoney finds the initiative helpful and hopes it can be expanded to screen for other common mental health issues in the future.
After graduation, FaithHoney plans to study Social Work and Communications and return to Wyoming to raise awareness for mental health issues. Wyoming has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation per capita. Later in her career she has her sights set on working for a global organization like Charity Water, to provide clean drinking water to those without proper access.