Let’s Talk Openly About Mental Health Issues


Millions of Americans are affected by mental illness every year, and the fact that mental health disorders are pervasive in the United States is no secret. However, many people don’t realize that not only adults, but millions of American students also suffer from mental health problems. Only a fraction are receiving necessary treatment. Moreover, based on the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report, up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs, or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. Therefore, in a school classroom of 30 students, 6 of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc..

In school, students in need can seek many different professionals: social workers, counselors, special education teachers, and school psychologists. However, the reality is cruel — there are not enough of them to tackle the job. For example, on average nationwide, each counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. The American School Counselor Association recommends a caseload nearly half that size. Additionally, according to data available from the National Association of School Psychologists, there is just one school psychologist for every 1,400 students.

The lack of resources in school is not the only factor that stops students from seeking help. Stigma of mental illness also causes problems. Stigma refers to being marked or branded, but also refers to groups of people being categorized as different from the “norm.” People with mental illness are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. For a group of people who already carry such a heavy burden, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their pain. Nonetheless, the mention of mental illnesses as a descriptor, critical term, or even joke makes it harder for us to realize the actual presence of mental health struggles. Many of us have heard – or even said – phrases like “I’m so OCD” or “I feel so depressed.”

Boys and girls of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and regions could experience mental disorders. No matter what a school’s current mental health resources look like, communication can improve access. Mental health is something that is rarely talked about within schools, and yet it is something that is guaranteed to affect everybody’s life in one way or another. If you have a mental illness, don’t isolate yourself and don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with mental illness, prevent you from seeking help. The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing it’s a problem in the first place. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your life. Reach out to your family, friends, and people you trust for the compassion, support, and understanding you need. Remember, you are not alone. We’ve all been there. We need to start to talk more about mental health in schools. We, the students, are the future.

We can be the force to change how mental health is viewed and treated in our daily lives. Reach out to your schools about providing resources and raising awareness. Try to be more aware of the people surrounding you and how they may be struggling. Most importantly, do not ignore your mental health. Let’s make sure that we do everything in our power to ensure that we’re a progressive, aware, supportive, and healthy society.