Being a student isn’t always the easiest job. Students today face a wide array of challenges that can make getting through the day a tall order. From the pressures of academics, to the time crunch of extra-circulars, and even the task of navigating a complicated social environment, each day presents a complicated web of interactions that students must untangle before doing it all over again the next day.

As a student, I’ve often found that it’s that third part—the social environment—of the school day that is often the most difficult to figure out.  From a young age, we students are taught that, “bullying is bad,” and that “drugs are bad,” but unfortunately in many cases the story ends there. The fact of the matter is bullying doesn’t end in elementary school once that lesson is taught, and many students don’t begin to experiment with drugs until an older age. The messaging of promoting personal health and safety doesn’t grow and change at the same rate that students do, not to mention considerations for the way in which the world has changed as well. I received my first cell- phone in middle school while some of my peers didn’t even receive theirs until high school. This digital environment opens a new door for cyber-bullying, where students can hide behind a virtual mask and engage in hostile comments to one another on online platforms. The new world that older students find themselves in deserves our attention as we develop different ways to be proactive in promoting personal health and safety.

Fortunately, being a student need not be all doom and gloom. There are many ways for students and parents to take matters into their own hands and sure that the students experience is a positive one. If they aren’t already, students should start this conversation with their parents. Parents should always have an open mind when talking with their children, and be ready and willing to understand that not all health issues are on the surface, as mental health is just as important as physical health. Students can also be the change-makers themselves. For instance, peer-to-peer programs are a great way to promote positive social interactions amongst young people. Students are often more receptive when hearing from their own peers than they are when listening to teachers or other figures of authority in their lives. Letting your friends know that it’s okay to be different, to be yourself, to reach out to the one person that usually sits alone during lunch, can make a world of difference in either their lives or someone else’s.