Living in John's Creek, Georgia, I've learned that students have to cultivate a porcelain mask to fit perfectly on their faces — one that doesn't crack under pressure or come off until they are at home. Asian and Indian students are expected to be high achieving and successful, so anything less than those standards are known to be inadequate. Such presumptions negatively impact a student's self-image and mental health, and I've seen clear evidence of that.
If I walk into the girls' bathroom at my high school, I guarantee there will be at least one locked stall and stifled sobs pervading the air.
If I sit at a cafeteria table during lunch, I guarantee there will be at least one neglected tray of food next to a student who is furiously scribbling notes.
If I look around inside a classroom, I guarantee there will be quick hands cramming tests into a backpack and eyes looking around to check if anyone saw his or her grade.
The worst part is the contradictory behavior of school administrators: they'll encourage us to speak up about mental health issues but will look the other way if they observe clear cases of depression or anxiety.
A close friend of mine has been struggling for a while now. Though I know her to be academically smart, she does not see her self that way. Any academic achievement that most kids would normally be happy with would never make her happy. She feels that she should be keeping up with the high school competition. While that goal in itself is perfectly fine, she put herself down because of it and always felt bad about her personal accomplishments, becoming more pessimistic and unhappy with herself.
When you cannot appreciate all the things that you do, even if it's small, that is when you go down a dark hole. My friend was diagnosed with depression and her behavior completely changed. She started hanging out with her friends less, adopted a rocky relationship with her parents and found it hard to complete basic work.
In a competitive town like John's Creek, mental illnesses have been prevalent, but it is up to us to support one another and to get through our inner demons. Instead of blaming your friend, start reminding them of all the great things that they have done. Instead of letting your friend push you away, give them space but check up on them now and then.
The biggest change that John's Creek needs is for its people to have an open mind and be supportive of each other. If we see someone struggling, we should offer help instead of shaming them for not doing better. Only then will we be able to support people and spread happiness.