Mental health issues affect 1 in 4 children or adolescents in the United States. Most people who develop a mental disorder experience symptoms by age 24. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between 15 and 24. While public schools have increased awareness around mental illnesses in health classes to a certain degree, more can be done. Because mental illness will likely begin surfacing during teenage years, schools have begun paying more attention to students’ mental health, providing school therapists and discussions in class about various mental disorders and how to identify signs of a mental illness.
How to improve
Though schools are making a conscious effort to improve mental health education, much more can still be done. Training school counselors and teachers in ways to spot and help students dealing with mental illness would be beneficial, because it isn’t enough to hope that the student or parents will come and ask for help. Teenagers are less likely to open up about their negative feelings, especially if they’re experiencing a mental disorder. It’s important for schools to offer resources to students to manage these feelings, whether through talking with a trained professional or teaching coping skills that students can rely on when feeling the effects of mental illness.
Overall, the most important thing schools can do is educate students and parents. Teaching parents to look for signs of depression or other issues with their child and teaching them how to address it can help families overcome mental illnesses. Even more important is teaching students themselves what to watch out for, with themselves and their friends. Letting students know they shouldn’t feel ashamed if they’re depressed or feel overwhelmed can be helpful and will make them more likely to seek help.
Why it’s important
Some of the above statistics show how prominent mental illnesses are amongst teens and young adults. By properly educating students about issues they or their friends may encounter, they’ll be more likely to seek help and know how to handle these issues later in life. Overcoming the stigma attached to mental health and disorders enables teens and young adults to do better, by giving them the resources they’ll need to succeed. Teaching those affected by mental illness how to cope with it at a young age will make them more likely to need less medical attention when they’re order and they’ll be able to perform better at their jobs and be more functional throughout life in general.