It’s important that we educate our youth on mental health early on. From first-hand experience, I didn’t recognize what I was going through at the age of 16. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and three-quarters begin by the age of 24.8. These statistics clearly show that educating our children on this topic is essential. I’m not the only one who has been affected by a mental health issue at such a young age. I am, however, part of a smaller group of people who experienced a mental health issue and made it out okay. I’m so grateful for this because not everyone’s mental health story ends the same. I’m one of the lucky ones, as another statistic from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that suicide, which is often associated with symptoms of mental illness, is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 15-34. You can find these statistics and more here.
The topic of mental health needs attention, and I’m happy that New York and Virginia have decided to address it. I hope that California (and every other state for that matter) can recognize the value of educating our children on mental health and hop on board. Educating our children could help them recognize early signs of mental health problems in themselves and others. It can help them know their resources and where they can turn to for help, if they should ever feel that they need it. And very importantly, it can create a new wave of social behavior and attitudes towards mental health so that one day, worldwide mental health can gain the respect and awareness that it deserves.
If that doesn’t hit home for you, think about your own children suffering from this and how grateful you would be to know that because they (and you) were educated and informed on mental health, they didn’t become part of the growing suicide statistic. I hope that the schools can publish information on mental health so that students can share it with their families. I know how hard it can be to speak to anyone about what you are going through, especially to your family, who might just tell you to snap out of it. Reactions like this can you to more thoughts of shame because “why can’t you just, snap out of it?” Oh yes, the way you snap out of cancer. It doesn’t work that way, and people need the opportunity to learn about it so that they can make the best choices for themselves or their loved ones if ever faced with a mental health problem.
I used to feel ashamed of my depression, and I used to get mad at myself for not being able to be happy. But years back, I decided to address my mental health after having dealt with it alone for over 15 years. I learned more about it and the ways that I could live a better and happier life. And it was one of the best decisions of my life. I haven’t felt shame for what I went through in years! Today, I’m happy to share my experience and my battle with depression with anyone who needs to hear my story. I feel like a new person, my life is on another level now, a happy one, and you deserve that too! There is no need for so many young people to struggle in the dark with any mental health problem, when I’m sure so many have already walked through that lonely and unbearable darkness, so you don’t have to so that mental health awareness and education is readily out there in the open for you. And that’s what implementing mental health education across the U.S. can do for our students, it can EDUCATE them on mental health. Students shouldn’t have to bury their feelings, feel ashamed, or hide from the world, there’s help, and it’s totally okay for them to ask for it. As a friend, I say to you in all honesty, seeking help changed my life and the life of my family for the better. And I wish that same positive outcome for anyone dealing with a mental health problem.
As for now, New York and Virginia will begin to educate our children about mental health. They will lead our children down a path of knowing, recognizing, acknowledging, and having an overall respect for and anyone suffering from mental health issues.
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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