By Grace Mundy
Today, mental health issues are becoming more and more relevant, especially among young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines mental illness as “conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior,” and that it may be occasional or chronic. According to the CDC, one in five children under the age of 18 have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder. Additionally, as reported by the American Psychiatric Association, 50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14, which happens to be the age many enter high school.
Despite how common it is, mental illness can be stigmatized and mischaracterized. It is a topic that is often taboo or not widely discussed. This may create a harmful view for those with mental illness, and can also create an atmosphere where it is not widely discussed or accepted.
“A lot of people perceive having a mental illness as a sign of being weak, but it’s really not like that. The reason why mental health is perceived this way is because it isn’t brought up enough, thus why it is seen as not being normal when someone has mental health issues,” senior Rachel Lee said.
Students at Granada Hills Charter (GHC) have many opportunities to seek help or more awareness about mental illness. The school offers a Virtual Wellness Center, for instance, and students are able to speak with a school psychologist. Additionally, the school regularly sends students check-in surveys and offers a GHC Peer-to-Peer Support Google Classroom.
However, many students may have difficulty reaching out to these resources, or may not even know that they are available.
Though many students may take health classes throughout their years in school, mental health is not regularly discussed in the classroom.
“In my classes, mental health is brought up rarely, if ever,” Lee said.
Having a strong understanding of both mental illness and how to take care of one’s mental health is the first step in bettering one’s overall health. Furthermore, students do not need an extremely detailed or descriptive explanation of mental illness in their classes every day. Rather, spending even just a few minutes a day in one core class to discuss mental health, whether it be explaining what a specific mental illness is or just sharing different ways to take care of one’s mind, can be extremely beneficial to students.
Regularly discussing mental health in schools is not unheard of. Schools across the country have adopted mental health education as a part of everyday teaching, and have seen successes with their students understanding and expressing their feelings.
“They were all comfortable with saying, ‘Yeah I’m stressed…’ I’m also really glad to see that they can admit that, and it’s OK. And they’re not ashamed,” Andrea McCabe, a fifth-grade teacher at Chatterton School in Merrick, New York, said, according to Today.
New York schools recently required mental health to be a part of its curriculum for all grade levels.
Like schools in New York, public schools offer free and accessible resources for students, which should also be used to help students gain a better understanding of their own emotions as well as learning math and history.
School can act as a safe place for all students to learn about mental health and some strategies to care for themselves. Having standardized curricula would ensure that students are receiving the same education.
For these reasons, even short discussions about mental health in class would be extremely beneficial for students. This would help students better understand how they are feeling, and would also make them more likely to use the mental health resources the school already provides.
“If schools normalized and talked more about mental health issues, and asked students how they were feeling more often, that would really help create more of a support for mental health in schools,” senior Grace Morcos-Hill said.