Oxford needs better mental health support

Haley Nguyen, Staff Writer

In a school emulating the academic rigor of a college environment, Oxford Academy students usually follow the unspoken rite of ceaseless work and constant stress. Oxford’s attempted fix for this falls short, glossing over the true cause of students’ ailments. 


Mindfulness — a meditation practice that focuses on one’s present state — has become the Anaheim Union High School District’s (AUHSD) default response when it comes to remedying student stress. Though not strictly enforced, Oxford has made it clear that mindfulness is its one-size-fits-all solution through its sparse emails about student mental health and mandatory in-class exercises.


However, mindfulness may adversely affect students. According to studies led by researchers at Brown University, University of Kentucky, and University of Oxford, mindfulness and meditation in general can have unspoken health detriments, including a spike in depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These are due to an overactivation of the brain’s insula, which can be triggered by the hyper-awareness of the body introduced by mindfulness.


While there are students who benefit from this technique, AUHSD’s promotion of it is a performative show for the district to hide behind when asked what they’re doing for student mental health. The root of the issue that Oxford specifically must address is the schoolwide fear of reaching out and the school’s deeply embedded burnout culture.


The stigma surrounding seeking help is mostly due to students’ fear of being seen as incapable. As a college-oriented school, students are naturally competitive as they scramble for the best college resumés and test scores. Instead of asking for support, students resort to self-deprecating jokes which feed further into a toxic school environment.


Furthermore, Oxford’s counselors’ open-door policy doesn’t do enough to help struggling students. Conflicting schedules and the unbalanced ratio of students to barely equipped counselors can deter students from getting the help they need. Trained social workers are also out of reach for most students as an admin or parent referral is needed. A classroom environment where students feel safe talking to staff about their mental health problems without the fear of their parents being notified can greatly benefit them, and staff should be able to recognize these signs and reach out to those struggling.


While student habits like procrastination can steepen the decline of mental health, hours of assigned homework and extracurriculars for the sake of college applications force students to prioritize their schedules over their well-being. This mindset is draining and inevitably leads to burnout, thinly disguised as “investing into one’s future.” 


Oxford must become more transparent on how they support their students beyond the classroom and a few resource links in an email. Deep breathing exercises are impractical for student health; research on better solutions to the student body’s plummeting health and greater investment in mental health resources, however, are crucial.