The Mask We Hide in


Everyone struggles. Everyone has their own issues going on— and whether they realize it or not— everyone works daily to perfect the mask they live in.

Mental health has become an extremely discussed topic; friends, parents, teachers all claim to understand how you’re feeling, yet at Paly, the need to hide your true emotional state is extremely prevalent. Though we live in a progressive society, mental health still proves itself to be a taboo subject.

“I feel like a lot of the resources and support [at Paly] is performative. It doesn’t actually feel like when you’re struggling that you’re supported” Anonymous said.

One of the reasons for this feeling of performativity could be that students at Paly do not know how to properly express their emotions. Inspired by an icebreaker activity from the non-profit, mental health organization “Ever Forward”, anonymous students were asked to write down three outer traits and three inner traits.

The results were overwhelmingly similar. On the outside, students said they were: Funny, carefree, positive, uplifting, outgoing, friendly, and empathetic. On the inside, students claimed to feel: Depressed, insecure, overwhelmed, disoriented, nervous, and angry.

I know everyone is going through their own thing. Some people have just perfected the way to present themselves

— anonymous

When I did this same activity with my class a couple months ago, the results proved to resemble these answers distinctively. Though it is clear the tendency to present yourself as positive on the outside yet struggle internally seems to be a common pattern in the Paly community— some students feel as though they are alone in this feeling.

“Everyone puts on such a good front. I’ll hear about teenagers in general being depressed and I’ve seen different mental health statistics and stuff, but I feel like it’s never an open discussion” Anonymous said.

Others see through the mask students put on.

“I know everyone is going through their own thing. Some people have just perfected the way to present themselves” Anonymous said.

In the Palo Alto community especially— students feel that their privilege denies them the right to be sad.

“It is so pushed to be this happy and motivated person, especially with all the academic pressure here,” Anonymous said. “When students have mastered the way to appear happy everyday, they will end up feeling worst in the end”

Some students believe there are certain things we can do to end the stigma around mental health.

“I like to check in on my friends and make sure they know their feelings are valid. Even though it’s a little task— I feel like it goes a long way” Anonymous said.

It’s important to acknowledge that while our school seems to be open-minded when it comes to mental health, there are still many flaws in our system.

“I feel like the resources at Paly are often misused. Like with the wellness center, I know a lot of people just use it to get out of class,” Anonymous said. “Because of that I know sometimes I feel like I can’t say when I really need help because I don’t want my teachers to think i am skipping”

In order to decrease the stigma around mental health, we must respect the resources available to us and use them for their purpose. In addition it is important to check-in on your friends; even the happy ones because they could be the one wearing the mask best.