Mental Health Matters
If I had the flu, I wouldn’t think twice about telling my friends or my doctor. For some reason, however, mental health is not treated in the same way. October 10th marks World Mental Health Day. Mental health struggles are just as valid as any other medical condition. You cannot just pretend they are not there, and you cannot tell them to simply go away.
At my elementary school, mental health was not discussed a single time that I can recall. This makes me wonder how many other schools are failing to educate their students on this topic. It is worrisome for me to think that children, myself included, grow up not knowing how to articulate their emotions. It also makes me sad that children growing up with mental illness may feel like it is something to be ashamed of because it is never discussed. When I reached high school, mental health was still minimally discussed and when it was, it was in the context of health or biology class. I was given a broad, somewhat vague overview that essentially only taught me that mental illness was a “thing” that existed.
In my opinion, overstressed high school students could benefit greatly from more in depth discussions about how to address mental health concerns such as how to know when you should be concerned about yourself or a friend, healthy coping methods, and who to reach out to for help., I know my friends and I could have benefited. Even if you personally have never faced mental health issues, someone you know inevitably has, and my school never equipped me with the tools to address this.
I believe we need to normalize discussions about mental health at an early age, rather than brushing them under the rug. At school, I saw a student presentation on mental health education and how it can be implemented in the American school system. The student’s lesson plan used the Pixar film “Inside Out” to explain the spectrum of emotions to younger kids. This presentation showed me that it is possible to start these discussions at a young age if we try. In my experience, schools are not trying hard enough.
You may be asking yourself, “What could I possibly do to change anything?” While we can’t change the way people perceive mental health overnight, there are some things you can do such as asking your friends how they’re feeling. This small active of kindness and concern, can go a long way. Doing this definitely makes me feel a bit awkward, but the more often I do it, the easier it becomes. And whenever someone asks me how I’m feeling, regardless of who it is, I am pleasantly surprised. This affirms that there are people who care about me and are looking out for me. I know that if I do not have these conversations, I am contributing to the stigma that is so hurtful to society. I want to ensure that people with mental health conditions receive the help they need, when they need it. We cannot just assume from someone’s outer appearance that everything is great on the inside. Mental health matters! And as cheesy as the saying is, it is okay not to be okay.