The FCPS Epidemic

According to the 2015 FCPS student survey, over a third of all students were under a great stress during the month prior to the survey.
“Unrealistic expectations, I think that is the major contributing factor,” said Janice Dalton, assistant principal at Rolling Valley Elementary School in West Springfield, in an interview with WTOP news. We’ve lost touch with a balanced life.”
Students feel pressured to have huge success in challenging classes.
“Last year, a counselor basically told my class we had to have a 4.0 GPA to go to college,” freshman Addie Merlo said.
In reality, a less selective school accepts students with GPAs starting at a 2.0.
These expectations, combined with a stressful environment and self pressure, can cause students to experience depression. In FCPS, 32 percent of sophomores and 36 percent of seniors experienced symptoms of depression, above the national average of 29 percent for both sophomores and seniors. This data comes from the FCPS youth survey.
In rare cases, depression and built up pressure leads students to self harm or suicide.
“There is too much stress in my life from school and the environment it creates,” former Woodson sophomore Jack Chen wrote. “Expectations for sports, expectations from my friends and expectations from my family.”
Chen was a student at W.T. Woodson high who committed suicide in 2014. He had a 4.3 GPA and was captain of the junior varsity football team.
According to WTOP news, in 2013, 6.9 FCPS students per 100,000 students committed suicide. The national average was 4.4 students per 100,000. Another 17 percent of FCPS students reported having suicidal thoughts on the 2013 FCPS youth survey. Approximately a third of FCPS seniors and sophomores said they have feelings of sadness and hopelessness, which is, again, higher than the national average.
Stress in FCPS has become a major problem, and FCPS has to set up efforts to reduce and help students deal with the pressure. They have partnered with mental health organizations, set up a texting hotline and increased teacher training on suicide related issues. FCPS has also set up conferences on managing stress.
At Lake Braddock, we participate in county wide depression screenings and mental health testing. The school also provides counselors for students in need.
However, students such as Merlo don’t think the school or counselors prevent stress prevents stress.
“The counselors are not super helpful,” Merlo said. “They might be if you go see them, but there’s not much time for that. When they do the counselors’ meeting things, it’s usually discussing your future and not actively helping with current stress.”
The most valuable method of reducing this stress would be lowering the expectations put on students. Telling eighth graders they have to have a 4.0 to have a decent college education only stresses them out, telling students instead that it’s ok to mess up sometimes could take the pressure off students to be high performing all the time.
With many students pressure to succeed and perform the best from home, compiled with the pressure students feel from school, means there’s really no one cutting any slack. There’s no room to make a mistake in an environment that tells you you have to have a perfect GPA. If FCPS wants to remove the stress, they have to remove this environment.
The most important thing to remember is that this point in your life is short, and that high school is just a build up to greater things. You don’t need to succeed at everything in order to be successful.