It's Time for Action to Help Youth Cope With Mental Illness

May 5, 2018

Most killers you hear about on the news, or you see on the covers of magazines, but not mental illness.

Millions of people are affected by depression, anxiety, substance addiction, and more. And sadly, sometimes mental illness can end in suicide. It is hard to diagnose many mental illnesses, especially in teens. Many things can cause mental health issues, and for young people that are affected by mental illness, schools should be taking a much larger role in educating youth on their mental health and how to take care of it. Mental illness is too big of a problem for people to ignore. 

There are a number of factors that can affect the development of some mental illnesses. Bullying, stress, and low self-esteem are all contributors to the risk of mental illness. Unsafe school and home environments are factors as well. Some mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.”

Mental illness does not always lead to suicide attempts, however 90 percent of people who commit suicide had a mental illness. Since it is so common in today’s youth, it is important for schools to provide the right amount of support for their students. However, many schools are lacking in that area.

School should be an outlet for students when they need emotional support. According to the Association for Children's Mental Health, “Many estimates show that even though mental illness affects so many of our kids aged 6-17, at least one-half and many estimate as many as 80 percent of them do not receive the mental health care they need.” The numbers are startling.

Many schools are understaffed with qualified people or all they have are guidance counselors, but not mental health professionals. I know that if at some point I thought I was depressed, one of the last people I would go talk to would be a school counselor that I barely knew. The situation is especially critical when some schools have only one guidance counselor in charge of helping students in all grades.

In most schools, it is mandatory for students to take a class that teaches about the dangers of smoking and drinking. Why is there not a mandatory class that educates kids on how to spot a mental illness, what to do if you do sense one, and healthy habits to prevent mental illnesses.

Mental health support in schools is a very debatable topic. Some people think that providing mental help in schools is distracting or takes away from the education kids should be getting. When in fact, having resources for mental health help could keep students from getting bad grades and even dropping out.

In an article on NPR.org, Meg Anderson and Kavitha Cardoza discuss a girl named Katie who started having mental health issues at age eight. Katie says that after only a few months of being bullied, her grades suffered tremendously. She went from being on honor roll to the edge of failing, something that shows how having mental health support could help keep kids from getting distracted or worse. Katie thought that no one cared about how she felt. Luckily, one day a nurse asked what was wrong, and that’s when things started to turn around.

It is easy to see that mental illness is a growing disease among today’s youth. And there are handfuls of things that can contribute to mental illnesses, and only a few ways to prevent or get rid of them. Because of that, schools should be taking a stand and helping their students rather than sitting back and watching their youth become tormented by mental illness.

If one counselor is responsible for 400+ kids, far more than the 250-student limit recommended by the American School Counselors Association, the numbers make it clear that personalized attention for each student would be very difficult. Either way, mental illness is too big a problem to ignore.

Lauren Sylvester is a student at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale.