A New Dialogue for Mental Illness
by Masfi Khan
Being a teenager can be hard. With more responsibilities, tougher school work and evolving identities, mental illnesses often go unnoticed. This is an issue for all ages, but in such developmental years it is even more important to open up the dialogue on mental health.
Unlike physical health, we can’t assess someone’s mental health merely from looking at them. But the effects of poor mental health are just as detrimental and serious. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20 percent of youth between the ages of 13 to 18 have a mental health condition. For youth ages 10 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, with 90 percent of those dying from suicide having a mental illness.
With such alarming numbers, why do we sweep this issue aside? Why is it that some brush it off with a simple “Get over it”?
Negative stereotypes and undermining make it difficult for those with mental illnesses to gain the support needed to recover. The best way to shatter this stigma is through education. We learn an abundance of topics in school, most of which we forget after the year is over. Education should not only be limited to textbooks; its teachings should be felt in our personal lives.
There should be mandatory peer health classes in which teachers and students openly discuss mental illness, including its warning signs, ways to help those suffering from it, and resources that are present in the neighborhood. Guidance counselors could hold presentations two to three times a year where they reiterate the importance of addressing mental health through engaging talks and activities and welcome students willing to talk about it.
Remember that an illness, whether physical or mental, still brings pain, still opens new wounds. It’s easy to feel isolated when having a mental illness. Let’s change the conversation so that it’ll be easy to get support.