I’m supposed to be writing an essay for a class, so let’s do this instead.
Raise your hand if you struggled with your mental health in middle and high school? All of us. No surprises there. As I’ve mentioned before, onset of a disorder occurs when there are biological, psychological, and social changes going on. Ding, ding ding! school and teenage years bring on all of that.
Raise your hand if you don’t know the first step to take if you think you need to contact a professional for your mental health. Not many of us.
AND raise your hand if you know the first step to take if you have the flu and need to contact a professional for your physical health. All of us? great! thought so.
So why the disconnect?
If science tells us that almost everyone aging through adolescence and in the school system will have issues with their mental health, why don’t we talk about it? We all knew where the nurse’s office was in school. Did you know where your school counselor was located? did you even know you had one you could talk to? Maybe you didn’t have one at all because of lack of funding.
Something scary to throw into this equation: this is also the age range where people make the most impulsive decisions.
Here’s a scenario for you. Sally is 15 and thinks she is showing signs of depression. Mom and Dad think Sally is just being a teenager. Sally doesn’t know who else she can talk to, so she ignores her growing depression and starts to cope in other ways, since nobody ever told her there were other ways to help herself. Sally starts self-harming and self-medicating with alcohol. Sally is now 17 and doesn’t feel any better. If anything, she feels worse (alcohol intensifies the symptoms of depression and other disorders). Sally just can’t take it anymore and doesn’t know who to turn to. Sally kills herself! After Sally dies, the school realizes they need to make their resources more available, but someone has already lost their life. Too late. There is nothing far-fetched about this scenario. It happens all of the time.
Again, logic??? where??
We’re throwing at risk populations into the sea of public school where their teachers are under paid and over worked, school counselors don’t even meet half of their kids, etc. Kids who really need help and attention fall through the cracks DAILY.
This is real, guys. Kids are suffering and dying every day because they don’t know that what they are going through can be helped. Below are a few visual representations of what I’m talking about. Some are old, but the numbers aren’t going down (hint: some of them are going up).
Back to Sally. If Sally had known that there are people that work at her school that she could talk to, she would also know that she can see a counselor that will help her get through a very common but very serious part of life. Sally probably wouldn’t have gotten to the point of ending her life had she known that resources were there for her.
We also need to face the reality that some parents just don’t take their children seriously when they talk about this. Nobody wants to face the reality that their parent might not be willing to (or know they should) be helping them with this. Educate the parents, yes! Educate the kids, too. They themselves are too often their only advocate.
We talk about sex education (not well) in public school. Literally 10 minutes of announcements about resources and awareness a week or month can make a huge difference.
Sally’s school had a counselor in this instance, but what about the schools that don’t? Now wait, before you say anything about it being required by all states or your state or whatever, think about it. Public schooling is under funded as is, do you really think every single school in your district has a school counselor? They probably have “a wearer of many hats” who technically holds that job title and 2 or 3 others. Am I outlining a bleak picture? I’m not sugarcoating anything for anyone. It should upset you.
Funding for more mental health in schools would be fantastic! Educating kids, would be better. Maybe the district can’t afford it right now; unacceptable in my book, but I’m grounded in reality. If we educate kids, they can tell their parents exactly what they want. Instead, the conversation the Sally and Sam’s of the world have with their parents can go from “you’re being a teenager” to “okay we’ll call tomorrow if that is what you want.”
The steps to getting in contact with a counselor or psychiatrist generally go as follows:
- You’ll need a referral from your primary care doctor, depending on insurance
- You’ll usually get a list from your insurance of places you can choose from to set up an appointment with
- Wait time for an appointment can be a few weeks up to a month (not a perfect system)
- Meet with your chosen professional and begin the process
This is a great resources for more facts and figures on this topic.
As always, here is the link to information if you or someone you know are in crisis.
Let’s talk about this! I know my middle and high school experiences were lacking when it came to staff I felt I could confide in.