***Content Warning: Topics of suicide and depression***
We’ve all seen the heart breaking statistics, since the pandemic began mental health distress rates have gone up significantly across the country. Every time I talk to a principal or teacher, I hear about the increased levels of depression and anxiety our young people are experiencing. All while our “so-called” leaders pat themselves on the back while offering little to no support for students, parents, and families.
I spent the past two week supervising and monitoring a family member who is battling suicide. Carlos was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder when he was in high school. Managing his diagnosis during his academic journey was challenging enough prior to COVID, now the increased isolation and hardships of the pandemic has greatly impacted his undergrad career. Carlos is an aspiring history teacher and college student. A few weeks prior to my stay, Carlos experienced intense suicidal ideation right in the middle of midterms. With the support of his family, Carlos checked into psychiatric inpatient care and decided to drop all his classes for the semester.
To my Latino communidad, mental health is only a taboo topic if we let it be. Parents, students are struggling, they need your guidance and understanding to talk about mental health and exploring options to heal. Growing up in my first generation household, mental health was not a topic I had the words to fully express. When I had panic attacks about balancing a full course load, two internships, and a part time job, I assumed I was overreacting and just pushed through it. Now, I realize I was not taking care of my emotional well being. This pattern definitely showed up later in my life. It is crucial for schools to invest in prioritizing student’s mental health.
Policymakers, elected officials, and education leaders, now is the time to put our values into action. A district sanctioned mental health hotline has never been enough to support students and families struggling with mental health. Carlos’s story is not an isolated incident, but rather a narrative that is far too common. We need our leaders to invest more in mental health counselors, trauma informed training, and culturally competent mental health services. Mental health resources are not a luxury our community can do without; we must prioritize creating and protecting safe spaces for students to openly talk about their mental health.
To the people struggling with mental health reading this blog, please know you are not alone and you are not a burden. You matter, you are important, and this too shall pass.
If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.
Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
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