Students spend half of their school day learning what seems to be the most important things in life. From learning how to write essays, handling money, learning about new theories, in addition to our physical health. These are all important things that will be beneficial, but according to Tayana Simons in her article why mental health education in school needs to be a priority “there is still a gaping hole in our curriculum which has a potentially huge impact on society for generations to come”.
A new study led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age did that were surveyed back during the era of the Great Depression. If students were taught about their mental health and illness, they could have a better understanding of it. It could eliminate the stigma around mental illness, teach students the importance of their mental health, and allow students to be more open.
Mental health and mental illness are often misconstrued and often are believed to be the same thing. Everyone has mental health, it is our well-being, our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us. Mental illness is an illness the effects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others(heretohelp.bc.ca). According to an article on NAMI.org Mental Health by the Numbers, Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. Many of them don’t even realize they have a mental illness until later on in their life when it takes a toll on them in their adult life. It could affect their future relationships, jobs, and maybe even a chance at having a life.
Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, told the newspaper, “Teens think they are invincible, so when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives. Jurich believes that is what’s causing teen suicide (centerfordiscover.com). These kids are going to be the next generation so we have to prepare them with this knowledge because if these rates continue to increase our future isn’t looking so bright. The issue is that many students don’t truly understand mental illness and associate sadness or stress with anxiety and depression. Some might even self-diagnose which may lead to addiction and or overdose. This is significant because if they were to have a better understanding of mental illnesses it may allow them to know if what they’re feeling or experiencing is a symptom of a mental illness.
With the stigma of mental illness, it can be hard for a student to reach out for help. Especially in school, a student could feel pressured to hide their feelings in fear of being called dramatic or if someone doesn’t understand what he or she’s going through. Especially at a very young age, high school students make jokes about having depression and anxiety or think it’s something that’s cool or trendy. Having depression isn’t just being sad it’s not being able to get up in the morning, having no interest in doing anything sometimes without a given reason. Same goes with anxiety it isn’t just feeling stressed for a test or being nervous. As a high school student, I have experienced anxiety during school. I remember trying to take my chemistry test I’ve been studying for the whole week but when that piece of paper landed on my desk I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move my pencil, and was on the verge of crying. In the end, I turned in my test blank and tried to explain to my teacher that I studied and I didn’t know why I felt paralyzed.
I didn’t understand what had happened I only knew that I had failed and my teacher was disappointed in me. Maybe if there had been a course for mental health/illness I would have understood what had happened and so would my teacher. Teaching it allows for an environment where students and teachers can understand the symptoms and help prevent the problem. Mental illness should also have the same importance in a classroom as with any other disease. According to Pewtrust.org, “We teach them how to detect the signs of cancer and how to avoid accidents, but we don’t teach them how to recognize the symptoms of mental illness,” Verga said. “It’s a shame because, like cancer, mental health treatment is much more effective if the disease is caught early.” Having a mental illness is like having a tumor, if left untreated it could grow and greatly affect the person. It is better to start detecting the signs in high school cause that’s where most kids start to develop mental illnesses.
In high school, students are put under so much pressure from their peers and teachers which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, and feeling lost. Students are more prone to developing depression, anxiety and eating disorders around the time they enter high school. With a mental health course, it could teach students helpful tips and strategies on how to deal with the stress of school, work, and home life. According to teenmentalhealth.org mental health problems may lead to drop-outs, difficulties in learning, school failure, and potential suicide. With this course, teachers will have the power to help prevent this and to help the students overcome their issues. Teachers would, in addition, be able to target students who are struggling and figure out the root of the problem or in some cases the student could seek out for help themselves if they are comfortable enough. The class could in addition focus on eating disorders which is very common in high school. With social media controlling our generation, it is very easy to feel the need to compare ourselves to other people, from their lifestyle and the way they look. These thoughts could affect many kids self-esteem. Especially at a young age many kids thrive to be like the people they see on Instagram or youtube, and instead of trying to be themselves they are looking for a way to become what looks good on camera. Focusing on fame and wealth rather than their health. This could lead to kids resorting to ext
Now I know some may be against teaching this in school and exposing their students/children. The pressure on teachers to be blunt about the effects of high school could make the teachers uncomfortable. The parents also might be concerned about exposing their kids to such raw information at such a young age, but this time is the best time to teach them about mental illness. High schoolers are influenced by each other and social media that parents don’t always know what their kid is thinking, but taking this course can help them recognize problems that they never realized. For example, maybe a kid is always feeling down but doesn’t know why resorting to a google search isn’t always a good idea. Having a class discussion may clear up some misconceptions about mental illnesses and open up a more welcoming environment where mental illnesses can be understood. This course could prevent so many problems on the kids and their families.
If parents knew, for example,20 percent of teens experience depression before adulthood, or that every 100 minutes a teen takes their own life (“why today’s teens are more depressed than ever”), maybe they’d be more interested in the course for themselves and their child so they can prevent the tragic event from occurring. It could save many parents nights of worry and In addition teach the students how to be more open with their family. This course could also be open to the parents to help them be more aware of the signs and symptoms and watch out for their kid. It could be taught by a real professional who will be comfortable In discussing the matter rather than leaving it to a P.E teacher. Some may also be concerned with the cost of an extra class and hiring a new teacher but if you think about it being able to teach these kids about mental health could save lives. So it would be worth it
In conclusion, including mental health/illness as a core class could be very beneficial to the students, teachers, and parents. It could help the students understand themselves and figure out a solution. It could help parents be aware of the symptoms and understand that it’s not just a phase. This course could in addition help the rates of the school by showing the community that they care about the kids and their future. it can reduce the risk of suicide and self-harm because it will allow us to detect the issue before it has spread. Allowing students to recognize their problem and help them understand that it’s not a bad thing to have a mental illness can help shape their character and teach them skills they can use throughout their life.