It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week and tomorrow, October 10, is World Mental Health Day.
So let’s talk about it!
Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to a group of elementary, middle school, and high school counselors about mental illness. I’m a presenter for Ending the Silence, a mental health awareness program by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
An area we focused on is the importance of awareness not only among students, but parents and school staff as well. It takes a village. The mental health conversation must be open.
One of the middle school counselors told me something that at first, surprised me. She said the number of students she sees for social and emotional issues (anxiety, depression, etc.) FAR surpass those she counsels for academic reasons. Years ago, it was the exact opposite. And this is middle grade.
I suppose this really isn’t so surprising. It seems as if each generation is more stressed than the previous one. Millennials are known as the anxious generation. Gen Z (ages 15-21) has reported the worst mental health of any generation, according to the APA. Some of the reasons? Social media, gun violence, political climate, immigration, sexual harassment.
I’m passionate about spreading awareness to young people. The more that people talk about mental illness, the weaker the stigma is. The hope is that stigma will lessen with each future generation.
Adolescents need to know they are not alone, that others feel the same pressures. That it’s okay to admit they’re not okay, and it’s absolutely fine (and healthy) to talk about it. They need to know there’s medical help available. The sooner they get help, the better.
When I speak to students during Ending the Silence, we discuss the warning signs of mental illness and what to do if they notice the symptoms in themselves or a friend. We talk about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, eating disorders, and suicide.
Suicide is the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization:
Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide.
The conversation on mental health and mental illness needs to be open. Talk about it. Share. Know that you are NOT alone. There is help available. There is hope.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Lifeline at (800)273-8255. Or text HOME to 741741.
Speak out. Together, we can end stigma.