Created by: Shannon Finn
Raising Awareness for Those Living with Mental Health Conditions
Mental health is a heavy topic that can be difficult to talk about. It is important to start the conversation with others in order to raise awareness and make a change. Being able to talk to children about mental health challenges and letting them know they are not alone at a young age will make talking about the topic easier as they get older.
“[We can make the conversation for children easier by] encouraging young children about how they're feeling,” Mary Gregorio, Founder and Director of Alpha Bravo Canine, said. “Being able to name it a lot of times makes a huge difference for someone who is struggling. If you're able to put a name on it and put a handle on it a lot of times that's the first step.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “half of individuals living with mental illness experience onset by the age of 14.” Since individuals are experiencing mental illness at such a young age, there needs to be efforts in schools to help students deal with this.
Creating a safe space for children and young adults in school can help these individuals feel comfortable in an environment they spend majority of their days in.
“I think that we should be able to have more environments where we can have conversations about mental health and what we're going through so that we know that we aren't alone and that, you know, it's not something that's negative or scary. It's just something that can be a part of life and that we can talk about and work through.” Amanda Ragar psychology major at Temple University said.
Organizations like Minding Your Mind aim to educate young adults, teens, parents, teachers and school administrators on mental health and what they can do for their students. Some things that the organization teaches are how to spot mental health symptoms and different treatments that are available. Through programs like the speaker program, students and educators are able to hear first-hand about an individual’s experience with mental health and are ensured that help is available.
Minding Your Mind also has presentations for parents as well as educators with actual mental health professionals who are there to answer any questions they may have on the topic.
When teachers and school administrators are educated on mental health issues, it makes it easier for students to receive the proper help they need when they reach out for help. Having organizations that provide these resources and conveniently come directly to schools makes educating a wider population easy.
Once these presentations are given, the hope is to start the conversation and keep it going. So far, according to PEW research, two states, New York and Virginia, require some mental health education of their students. In Virginia mental health education is required in grades nine and 10, and in New York mental health education is required kindergarten through 12th grade.
The more states that get on board with requiring educating students on mental health, the more individuals the topic will reach, and in turn will help reduce the stigma.
Written by: Shannon Finn