Welcome back! If you didn’t read my last post, it’s all about the Mental Health Crisis, and this article is a continuation. If you want to check that out, here’s the link: https://theanxiousteensofamerica.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/the-mental-health-crisis/
Today, I am going to attempt to address some ways in which we can help the deteriorating mental health of our youth. These are just some straight-forward, common-sense steps we could take to tackle the problem. The things I listed aren’t complicated or completely out of reach. These are steps that we can take in our own community. Before we can address the solutions, however, we must address what is already being done.
While speaking about recent mental illness reports, Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America, stated: “It’s time to act- we must invest in the overall physical and mental wellbeing of our citizens- everyday. We must address these mental health concerns before crisis and tragedy strikes.” If this doesn’t concern the majority of people in the United States, I don’t know what would. Never in history has a nation sat so idly by while its citizens suffered. Some actions taken by Mental Health America that I believe should be mentioned are their efforts through their Federal, State, and Regional Policies. Their Federal Policy works on early identification and intervention, access to integrated care, and insurance parity for people with mental health conditions. The Federal Policy also works with federal legislation regulations and agencies that promote priorities and position statements. The State Policy works with state and local policymakers to develop and pass laws, regulations, and policies to promote mental health. Their Regional Policy connects national and state policy and advocacy on mental health. There are many different programs that have helped so many people; these were just some that I thought were impressive.
Here’s the full article: https://www.mhanational.org/issues/mental-health-america-printed-reports
Another surprising tool that has helped end the stigma is social media platforms. Even though social media can be so harmful to mental health, it has connected many people and helped teens to feel accepted.
What can we do?
There are so many ways in which we can impact the issue of mental illness in America. The number of youths and adults suffering gets higher every single day, and it can be difficult to keep up. Here are some of my thoughts on how we could approach the matter.
In order to fix the mental health crisis, we have to educate the majority. Where I believe we should start is in the classroom. During high school, we are taught biology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, English, history, foreign language, etc. And while a lot of these subjects are necessary, there is a piece of curriculum that seems to be missing: Mental Illness 101. I believe instead of learning insane chemical equations, we should be learning about the chemicals in the brain. Instead of learning so thoroughly about the various parts of the cell, we should be learning about the biological effects anxiety has on the body. Instead of factoring trinomials or finding the area of a pentagonal prism, we should be addressing anxiety and depression and suicide. Teens need to be educated on what mental illness is, how to seek help, and what treatment options are available. This is a bigger issue to the youth of America than the public school system cares to admit, and its time they face the reality that teens need this type of support and education. And, if we can’t convince the school system to teach kids these important things, we can always start our own education platforms where we know they will find what they need.
- End the stigma
We have to talk. This is where social media platforms have become so useful. I think I follow more mental health pages than people on Instagram! Not only do these pages provide a lot of useful facts and coping skills, they provide little support groups where people struggling with the same things can talk. Now that mental health advocacy has infiltrated the internet, we need to incorporate it into everyday life. Simple things like mentioning the subject of mental illness while talking to family and friends, or wearing clothing supporting mental health awareness. Any way in which we can normalize speaking about this serious subject will quickly help people ditch the shame and get help.
- Reach out
One of the main mistakes people make when trying to help mentally ill people is waiting for the sufferer to reach out. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the way it works. Because of the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness, many people aren’t getting the treatment they need. If you see someone suffering in silence, I urge you to not wait around for them to tell you they need help. Right when you see the signs of mental illness, talk to them and offer your love and support, without judgment.
- Be kind
Obviously, being kind will not fix the mental health crisis; but, being kind can go a long way. In the past few months, I’ve noticed how bitter the world seems to be. Nobody smiles as you walk by; nobody says thank you when you hold the door; nobody compliments anyone anymore. Believe it or not, simply being a kind person can have a significant impact on a person’s life and mental health. Next time you’re out in public, try smiling at or complimenting a stranger. Call an old friend. Hug your mom. Because you never know who could be struggling. The person you smiled at may have been having an anxiety attack. The person you complimented may have been suicidal, and your words could have given them hope. Never underestimate the power of kindness.
Paul Gionfriddo said, “Sadly, our report shows that our children are in crisis. Despite mental health being something that more and more people are talking about, far too many young people are still suffering. It is imperative that we prioritize mental for adolescents so that we can avoid crisis and so they can live healthy and productive lives.” So, how are you going to prioritize mental health for our adolescents? The things I listed aren’t big government plans to reduce drug prices or blueprints for a whole new America; I just believe that if we implement education and and kindness into our communities, we can make a difference.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”