Students have been taught about health-related issues ever since the beginning of their educations. In pre-school, for example, we were introduced to hand-washing and kindness toward our peers. In second grade, education about street drugs and conflict resolution became part of a standard curriculum. And as pimply seventh-graders, we were taught about shaving cream, sex education, and the magic of deodorant.

In all of these years we have been taught how to cope with common childhood stresses, such as pressure to use drugs, problems with grades, and unhealthy relationships. We were even taught more regionally-appropriate lessons such as the danger of joining a gang or the proper set of hand signals to use when biking across an interstate highway at the age of eight. (As a student in a small-town Nebraska high school, none of that meant anything to me.)

However, one lesson that has been left out of most health curriculums throughout the k-12 years is a very relevant life skill. Considering that over one third of teens experience depression at some point during their high school years, it is obvious that mental health issues should be gradually introduced into curriculums at every age.

With the emergence in the last decade of school shootings and the 200% rise in teen suicides and depression, it is more vital than ever that depression and mental disorders in teens be diagnosed at an earlier age. That treatment should always be readily available through teachers and counselors.

But these symptoms could be avoided through information in a simple health class. According to research done by the National Institute of Mental Health, early education about the symptoms of major psychological disorders, depression, and proper living habits such as hygiene and nutrition lowers a person’s chance of developing a mental illness.

A federally funded Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that an estimated 700,000 American high school students attempt to kill themselves each year, and millions contemplate doing so.

Despite this, teen depression is usually not even diagnosed, leading to serious difficulties in school, work and personal adjustment that often continue into adulthood.

Offering even more evidence for this type of education, it is known that serious and sometimes incurable mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and social phobia usually emerge in the teenage years. Thus, the junior high and high school years are vital to the development of a healthy mind.

Education about depression, social skills, and mental diseases will not only lower the occurrence of these disorders in teens, but help them understand the people who suffer from them. If the facts and myths about mental problems can be separated and shown to the public, people who struggle with these problems will not be as alienated or misunderstood by other people. Their healing process will be shortened, returning them sooner to a normal, healthy life.

As new problems are faced, another issue always comes to mind: How will we pay for this? Some health textbooks used in grade schools already include a chapter about mental health and psychoses. For the schools that don't, the decision to purchase new books could be impractical. This should be dealt with on an individual basis within districts and cities.

This would be a great topic for a presidential debate.

Mental Health Awareness

The purpose of my writeup is to make the community more aware of mental illnesses and the problems associated with having a mental illness. I am not a medical professional but from my life experiences I should be. Really I'm just a spokesperson for the mentally ill.

We have to deal with:
I. Stigma
II. Discrimination
III. Lack of Resources for Treatment

Through awareness, there is hope for educating and helping others with and without mental illnesses.

Definition of Stigma: brand; mark of disgrace; stain on character. (Webster's Dictionary)

Definition of Stigma: The shameful act of discriminating against someone. An ugly act which violates the human rights of another individual by inflicting discrimination. Something which is wrong and which will not be tolerated. (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill's definition)

Definition for Discrimination: Single out for special favor or disfavor; distinguish between; be discerning.

How Would You Feel?

Describe in your mind your honest emotions when you see a person walking down the street in rags, talking nonsense, and moving about strangely. Have you ever made fun of one of those people? Did it make you feel better? THIS IS STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION.

That person could very well be mentally ill with an illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, among several others which I will write further on in the future.

There used to be a terrible lack of resources for mental illnesses but now thanks to the World Wide Web you can find most anything pertaining to them. Do a little research and learn about a friend.

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