Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reach out

Many of you may not be aware that May is national mental health awareness month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has worked hard to spread the word on Mental Health and the month of May has provided the opportunity to raise the awareness of mental health issues. I realize we are exactly six months away from National Mental Health awareness month, however I feel with the holidays coming upon us, it may be a good time to address the issue in my blog. I usually don't like to fill up a paper with a bunch of statistics but I think it is important for our topic today. Please bare with me. These are all statistics from the NAMI website: One in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. Approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. Bi-polar disorder and depression are the two biggest illnesses. The statistic that bothers me the most is that approximately 60% of adults and almost one half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays (sometimes decades) between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

This then brings us to the question of why aren't people getting the help they need? "Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed of symptoms because our society places illogical taboos on mental health issues over physical conditions," said clinical psychologist Nikki Massey-Hastings, PsyD. It is nothing for a student to walk in to school with a cast on his leg, because of a broken bone, and immediately everyone will run up to the student to offer sympathy. When a student has been out of school because of the flu bug, people will welcome him back and ask how he is feeling. Students will not talk about their mental health issues because they feel they will be labeled as "crazy" or some other derogatory comment. They are also afraid of what their parents will think. When they do bring it up, many people don't know how to respond and end up saying something "stupid". The cartoon shows things that we obviously wouldn't say to someone who was sick, but we often tell someone with mental health issues to "just get over it" or "suck it up". With all these barriers the students are surrounded by, it is no wonder that mental health so often goes untreated.

I just want the students to know that they can talk to any staff member, teacher or myself if you are suffering from what you believe is a mental health concern. If you have been feeling really down lately, crying a lot, can't sleep or any other concern that is bothering you, please know that there is help. Don't be afraid to seek help, people will understand. There are plenty of resources out there for you. If you have any questions, please stop in the office and just chat. I look forward to it.

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