Did you know that the average age that people start showing early signs of mental illness is 14 years old? This is one of many reasons why schools need to be involved in mental illness awareness.
Take a look at some of the things that you should know about mental illness awareness and why it’s important to incorporate mental illness awareness in schools.
Mental Health Issues Impact Students
Students are impacted by mental illnesses in a number of ways. Some students will experience their own mental health problems, and other students will have friends who are struggling with mental health issues. Some students will be impacted by a family member’s mental illness. Still others may be affected by an educator’s mental health problems.
No matter how a student is affected by mental illness, they need information and resources in order to deal with it.
Students need to know what mental illnesses are and be able to identify signs of mental illness in themselves or others. They need to know where they can go to ask for help if they or someone they care about is exhibiting signs of mental illness. And they need to know that they’re not alone.
Knowing that others are living with mental illness, dealing with mental illness in the family, or supporting a friend with mental illness can make a student who is going through the same thing feel less alone.
Mental Illness Awareness Can Combat Stigma
Students who suffer from mental illnesses themselves, or those who have friends or family members who suffer from mental illnesses, can be affected by the stigma that is sometimes attached to mental illnesses.
People who don’t fully understand mental illnesses may make incorrect judgments or unkind assessments of people who suffer from mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses may also face discrimination in their communities – including in schools – as well as other types of prejudice.
Increasing awareness of mental illness increases knowledge of mental illness. And with more knowledge, there is less stigma.
This means that students who have or suspect that they have mental illnesses may feel more comfortable reaching out for help. Students who live with a family member who has a mental illness will feel more empowered to talk about their experience and look for resources and support.
Mental Illness Awareness Can Save Lives
The phrase “mental illness” encompasses a wide variety of different conditions that range from very mild to very severe.
It’s important to remember that just like some physical ailments can be life-threatening, so can some mental illnesses. For example, suicide is a real risk for people suffering from some types of mental illnesses, such as depression.
There are some circumstances specific to teenagers that may put them at an even greater risk for suicide attempts and other potentially life-threatening behavior than adults with the same illness. Teens tend to be more impulsive than adults, and often lack the experience to pause and take a long-term view of a given situation.
The teenage brain is still not fully developed, which may be the reason why even mentally healthy teens sometimes make short-sighted, foolish, and even dangerous decisions and a mental illness increase that risk.
Understanding mental illness and being aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness can help teens recognize the signs of mental illness and suicidal thoughts in themselves and others and give them the information that they need to seek out help before it’s too late.
Currently, suicide among teenagers is on the rise and is, in fact, the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. By including mental illness awareness in schools and making sure that students are educated and informed about mental illnesses, schools can be responsible for saving the lives of some at-risk students.
Schools Are a Logical Place for Mental Illness Awareness Programs
Perhaps the best reason for implementing mental illness awareness programs in schools is that schools are the most logical place for such a program to take place.
On average, students in the United States spend about a thousand hours a year in schools – and that’s without taking after-school programs into account. The only single place that a student is likely to spend more time is in their own home.
Furthermore, health education is already part of the school curriculum for most students. Programs focusing on things like physical fitness and good nutrition begin as early as kindergarten. In later years, students also learn about things like how the body works, puberty, communicable disease, and sexual health.
It’s important to recognize that mental health and physical health are not wholly separate things. They go hand-in-hand and have serious impacts on each other.
A person struggling with mental health issues may begin to neglect their physical health or do things that damage their bodies or lead to illness. A person who is experiencing physical health problems may begin to experience mental health problems as a result of their symptoms or the impacts of their illness or injury in their daily life.
These are realities for many teens who pass through schools – students, parents, and educators. Therefore, it only makes sense to add mental illness awareness to the curriculum in addition to other programs that concern health and wellness.
Early intervention can be vital to diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, and in some cases, early recognition of warning signs can lead to actions that may reduce the severity of mental illness, making it easier to recover from or to manage and treat later on.
Because most young people spend large amounts of their time in school, it stands to reason that mental illness awareness in schools could have a big impact on the current and future mental health of the students who pass through those schools. Mental illness awareness programs can take a variety of forms, and different communities may have different preferences on what form they take, but what’s important is that they’re included in schools in some form or another.