Mental Health Services Are Necessary, Not Optional

As a college student, I have recently become more aware of my own mental health. One observation that I have made and learned is that there are many people in my community dealing with trauma and mental illnesses.

ICUC meeting talking about mental health in San Bernardino. Photo by Rocio Aguayo

It is absolutely crucial to recognize the connections between physical and mental health and vice versa. For example, depression and anxiety can impact our ability to act positively, such as not having enough energy to exercise or eat well, and not being able to reduce the use of alcohol. Likewise, physical health issues can impact our mental health. A person with chronic diseases might experience depression as a consequence and become less likely to seek treatment. This gap between physical and mental health needs to be bridged. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 to 14 and the second leading cause for young people between 15 and 24 years old. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of youth from ages 13 to 18 struggle with severe mental disorders. Additionally, 70 % of youth within our juvenile justice system have a minimum of one mental health disorder. Within San Bernardino County, 65,500 low-income residents had mental health issues in 2014.

After looking into the mental health resources that the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) has, I have learned that each school has a Psychologist that is part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Restorative Justice (PBIS-RJ) that has been recently implemented. Inland Congregations United for Change and other nonprofits have advocated to expand resources in the district for the past decade.

While being exposed to this new information, I began to reflect about why I had not learned about this sooner throughout my educational experiences. At my former high school, Arroyo Valley, there were little to no resources for coping with mental illnesses. It was a topic that was not really discussed unless one was problematic or were thought to be insane. In retrospect, there were many moments in my life where I was dealing with conflicts in my home life and in school, but never knew how to address the matter and held everything in. It should be essential to have resources to learn how to cope with our struggles in San Bernardino, a community with youth and families who are constantly dealing with trauma and the effects of poverty.

The main recommendation that I am making to our schools is to teach our young people about mental health. The statistics show us that they are struggling with mental illnesses. It is best to introduce it in a manner that does not seem that it is uncommon and only for “insane” people. Further, there should be a center for youth to access during urgent matters such as: panic attacks, high stress, and etc. along with a time to set up weekly appointments with a therapist, if desired. Additionally, there should be workshops provided on how to cope and manage with difficult situations in our lives. Finally, I would consider having professionals who understand the intersectionalities of our lives as people of color, undocumented, queer, and other identities.  

Data from NAMI
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Rocio Aguayo

Rocio Aguayo

Rocio Aguayo is a young community oriented aspiring educator who has worked as a mentor with Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), a tutor with Youth Action Project at local high schools and now a youth leader with CAPS in San Bernardino, CA. She previously took pictures and wrote opinion pieces for the El Chicano Newspaper in the Inland Empire and was yearbook editor-in-chief at Arroyo Valley High School.

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