The Importance of Mental Health Education in Schools.

classroom

Just recently, I stumbled upon an article regarding two states (New York and Virginia) requiring teachers to educate their students about mental health. The article is posted on Facebook or you can find it here: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/New-York-Virginia-Public-Schools-Now-Required-to-Teach-Students-About-Mental-Health-487429081.html.

When I first saw this and eventually read the article, I said this: “It’s ABOUT time!” I’m 34 (almost 35) years old and for the first time, this is news. When I was in school, this was never a topic of conversation. So, I was really surprised! When your children are in school, teachers educate your children, feed them with the knowledge and teach them how to prepare for “the real world”. And in “the real world” there’s so many things such as mental illness. Mental health is a very serious illness and is something that needs to be implemented in every child’s education.

I was a child of depression and I was a good student. I got mostly B’s and C’s and when depressive episodes hit me then my grades starting dropping to D’s and F’s. My homework was piling up and my teacher and the school counselor were concerned that something was wrong. My parents were called into the teacher’s office and they had a full discussion about my grades, what was happening at home, anything they could find that was causing this problem. I had to admit to myself that I was depressed and that was the reason why I wasn’t do my schoolwork and withdrawing from society. Good communication and education goes a long way. We need to start the conservation not just in two states, but all.

One tragic case that occurred in high school was: a suicide of a fellow classmate. One of my classmates was a popular, outgoing teenager. She was gifted in music and arts. She loved school and had a lot of friends. I was friends with her brothers and we had a great time in school events. But what I didn’t know was that she had severe depression. I never knew that she had it. She did a great job of masquerading her depression. I knew she smoked pot, but didn’t think much about it. I found out later that pot was her way of coping with depression and her friend was a pothead as well as a depression sufferer,too. So one day, they both got caught in the girls’ bathroom by one of the faculty members with marijuana. They were immediately taken to the principal’s office where the principal called their parents and even the police were notified, too. Word spread quickly around and the entire school got wind of them getting caught with pot on campus. In the principal’s office, both students were given the “You’re not allowed to bring drugs or weapons on campus. You’re immediately suspended” speech. After that speech, my classmate threatened to commit suicide by hanging in the principal’s office. The principal thought she was just trying to get out of trouble, but she was dead serious. He shrugged off her potential suicide attempt and her parents took her home. After she got home, she went into her adoptive father’s gun collection and opened it up and killed herself.

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that this happened. I didn’t know she was depressed nor her friend was, too. And all of the parents were MAD that the principal didn’t take her suicidal attempt seriously. After her death, her best friend attempted suicide, but survived. She was immediately taken to the mental health hospital for a long time. Every student was shocked to the core and we had the hardest time wrapping our heads around it. The following day, school resumed as if nothing happened. A popular student takes her own life and the next day, school’s back in session??? There were a lot of parents that didn’t let their kids return to school immediately after because this was a small town and things like this don’t happen everyday.

My parents were very strict when it came to communication. If you want to have a successful relationship, both parties need to communicate. It’s a two-way street, not a one way street. When that happened, they sat me down and we talked until we were blue in the face. My dad said to me: “If you do something wrong, of course, I will be upset. But would hurt me even more is if you self-harmed yourself and take your life. I wouldn’t be able to handle that.” So true! Communication and education about mental health with your family and your teachers is very important.

I was just a mere sophomore when Columbine happened in 1999 and I remember the entire school watched the news footage of that massacre and also the events of 9/11 during my senior year. The entire school including the faculty members watched in pure horror as we heard what happened, how many kids were injured, how many were killed and etc. The principal and the faculty even started a discussion after we watched this and said: “What can we do to prevent this? What steps can we take so that we can prevent this from happening again?” The suicide of my classmate occurred almost a year after Columbine.

So the question that I have is “Why is it taking this long to FINALLY require schools to educate their students on mental health education? And why only two schools on the East coast?” Truthfully, this needs to be instilled at all schools across the country. Remember, suicide rates are a lot higher now and is especially for children and teenagers. Personally, mental health education should start at home. Then, it should be continued in schools, too. Think about the various mass shootings that have occurred over and over again particularly, the recent shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. There’s always a reason as to why people do what they do. Something triggers people into doing something that they normally wouldn’t do such as: acting out, resorting to violence, withdrawal from society, divorce, and etc. Whatever the case is, we as a society need to become more educated in mental health. We can’t keep sweeping this under the rug because if we keep doing that than these shootings will keep occurring over and over. You can even argue that gun control is part of the issue. It is. But mental health is still something that needs more attention.

I suffer from depression and anxiety and I know what it’s like living with this. When I was in school, mental health wasn’t a topic of conversation. I knew kids that were depressed because some grew up in a broken home, some were into drugs and alcohol, and some got into trouble and started fights. I was depressed and I was able to recognize the symptoms and the pain that these kids were going through. Talking was just a private one on one with the school counselor and that was the end of it.

So when I saw this article, I was surprised and relieved that this is finally happening. I look forward to see if this works and hopefully, gets implemented nationwide. In short, talk with your kids and educate them and yourself about mental health. Don’t say that it won’t happen to you because is can happen to you. Don’t be naïve. Be the change, not the problem. Make this world better than the way it was founded. Period. Case closed!

 

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