by Gabrielle Allen-Destroismaisons, SAVE Youth Advisory Board, Laney High School (NC)
September is a busy time of the year. Most schools are getting their academic year up and running and students are scrambling to find where to go, what classes to take, or what to wear. More important than any of these things though, is the mental health of the students. Mental health can be described as one’s psychological, emotional, or social well-being. When students have mental health issues that go undiagnosed or untreated, this can create difficulties in managing stress, schoolwork, and relationships. In more serious cases, untreated mental illness can lead to suicide, self-harm, and risky behavior.
In order to protect our youth and ensure that they have access to all of the mental health resources that they may need, it is essential that educators, advocates, students, and other people looking to make a positive impact, open the door for conversation. This can be done through effective awareness campaigns and by avoiding the stigmatization
of mental illness. People are more likely to reach out for help when they feel that their thoughts are valid and that someone will listen to them. Organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, To Write Love on Her Arms, and NAMI, have some awesome ways to get involved and spread the message that there is no shame in asking for help.
While there are many different mental illnesses, I would like to highlight the ones that afflict adolescents at the highest rate. According to the Foundations Recovery Network1, some of the most common mental health disorders that are afflicting our youth are depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD). By educating yourself on these disorders in particular, you can equip yourself with tools on what to look for and how you can help those who are struggling. The American Psychological Association’s website has some of the most current information on all of the aforementioned mental illnesses and is a great resource for
The start of the new school year in particular can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. Whether it’s adjusting to a new environment, applying for college, or simply keeping up with coursework, school can be the tipping point for many students who are struggling with mental health issues. For high-achieving youth, the
pressure of maintaining a good grade point average or making the cut for a sports team or audition can be crippling. Other students who feel overwhelmed by crowded hallways or difficult homework can find themselves wallowing in a sea of perpetual hopelessness. Fortunately, for sufferers of anxiety disorders and depression, these conditions are
for the most part treatable. Make it your mission to ensure that the students at your school know who their counselors and social workers are. The resources are present, but will only get used if students feel comfortable reaching out. Another great resource for youth who are struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). When you call, you will be directed to a trained crisis worker will listen to your problems and tell you about mental health services in your area. A good activity for the month of September would be to post the hotline in bathrooms on school campuses and also to put up fliers in the hallways so that students know that this resource is available to them.
While most mental illnesses require psychotherapy and/or medication, there are little things that can be done to ensure that your psyche stays functioning at its best. Setting aside time for yourself, learning to cope with negative emotions in a positive way, self-affirmations, and creating a self-care plan are all great skills that everyone should utilize.
Want to know more? Below are great resources on how to get involved further.
Source: Foundations Recovery Network – http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/mental-health-and-addiction/common-young-adults/