Mental health care for teens needs a major upgrade

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay / geralt

By Tyler Kwon

Mental illness is an uncomfortable topic in American society. We have a cultural hesitance to discuss this issue. However, there are numerous studies that show we have a distinct need to discuss this issue.

According to the the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a fifth of adolescents suffer from a mental illness; eleven percent of kids have a mood disorder; eight percent of children and adolescents have an anxiety disorder, and suicide is the third most common cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24.

While American schools claim to uphold policies and practices conducive to the wellbeing of their students, they often seem to forget the incredibly damaging consequences of untreated mental illness. During adolescence, a period of self discovery and the formation of a personal identity, teenagers are at a high risk of experiencing feelings of alienation, confusion, and isolation, and thus face an even higher risk of mental illness.

In order to address this often forgotten concern, the American education system needs to establish clear support, resources, and education for their students in order to stop debilitating mental illness from harming teens.

Recently a psychiatrist visited students here on campus to discuss the importance of sleep for mental and physical health. She concluded her seminar by telling us that if we had any further questions or concerns, we could speak to our school social worker.

First, silence. Then, an eruption of chatter and disbelief filled the room as many students in the room gasped in shock.

“We have a school social worker?” I heard many students ask.

Despite the mental health epidemic that faces American youth today, most teens answer are not knowledgeable about resources available to them. But many have felt isolated, depressed, or had thoughts of suicide, and have need of those resources.

This is the state of mental health care for teens in the United States. While some resources do exist for teens, schools do not spend the time necessary to inform and discuss methods and healthy habits for coping with mental and emotional stress. This type of environment creates a student population that is too fearful of the negative associations of mental illness to seek help from their friends and teachers.

While it is clear that there is a problem among teens in American society, resolutions to this issue still remain unaddressed. Our school social worker Barbara Ackermann hopes that students seek support and information regarding mental illness through her services and those of other professionals available on campus.

“Finding out who you are, what you believe in, what you want to stand for, that’s common during the high school years, and if you’re an outlier in some way on the normal curve that’s a dangerous place to be,” Ackermann said.

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