OUR SCHOOLS AND MENTAL HEALTH
This blog post is the second in a series based on the principles from my book, Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic.
In part one of this series, I talked about eliminating the stigma attached to teen suicide and mental illness. I believe that by talking openly about these issues, we are making enormous progress in this regard. We are beginning to shine a light in the darkness, and we need to get comfortable about being uncomfortable and continuing the conversation.
Your fear of the stigma is part of the illness.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines stigma as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.”
Yes – the stigma is real. The student living with mental illness believes from experience that others won’t be understanding or empathetic about their mental illness. This impacts their desire to ask for the help they know they need. The threat of stigma coupled with the effort to avoid being labeled are so powerful that more than half of the people who would benefit from mental health services never even obtain an initial interview with a professional.
If you are a teen and are suffering, I encourage you to set aside what you believe to be the stigma and reach out to a trusted adult at your school. You will be glad you did.
Schools can be a great resource and most teachers and counselors care deeply about all of their students. Administrators and other key staff are trusted adults and can point you in the right direction with contacts of support in the community.
Sometimes the young people we need to worry about are not necessarily on the school’s radar. Right now, there are students who are silently struggling with mental illness – and they are hesitant to come forward because of the stigma.
This needs to stop. We need to get past this reluctance to come forward.
We are all responsible for this. The more we talk about mental health, the more we demystify the stereotypes. The more comfortable we become, the more people may realize that this is a very serious situation in our country.
THE BOTTOM LINE
More than ever, teens need adult guidance to understand the emotional and physical changes they experience. When teenagers’ moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to-day basis, this may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder that needs attention.
Act immediately. Do something. Getting help is OK…
Mental illness is an economic issue and along with raging opioid addiction, it’s becoming the greatest public health crisis of our time.
We must take responsibility and actively work to eliminate the stigma. Talk about mental illness. Talk about teen suicide. It’s OK to share our thoughts and our feelings. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
We need to be present and in tune with what others around us might be going through. We need to work on our emotional intelligence in order to pick up on the cues we might not otherwise notice from others.
When we break the stigma, more people will be comfortable asking for help. Do it for each other. Do it for yourself, your family and your community.
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