We Need To Talk About Mental Health

Tess Howicz, Staff Reporter

Suicide is the 2nd most common cause of death for Texan youth today. An average student in 2020 is likely to suffer from mental issues like an anxiety disorder or depression due to school and social media. Some might not even realize they have it because they can’t recognize what mental illness looks like. Therefore, every high school in Texas should have a mandatory mental health class for all freshmen or new students to help decrease suicide rates.

Mental health symptoms have become normalized in recent years due to so many people telling suicide jokes to sound “edgy”. This can include saying they want to kill themselves because they are stressed about something or using a shooting gun hand gesture at the side of their head. While this might seem harmless, it could be hiding someone’s real desire to commit suicide to escape stress or depression. If schools had mental health classes with a trained teacher or counselor, they could help students to think twice about what they say about death and recognise when someone isn’t joking. Depression and suicidal thoughts aren’t always easy to see in a person. You hear on the news all the time from families and friends who have had someone commit suicide say they were surprised because that someone acted happy and cheerful before their tragedy. We need to listen to the words and tone of people who make suicide jokes to see if it is truly a joke, and a class would be the best way to acquire those skills.

Social media is used by almost all adolescents and young adults today. It is a useful tool for several reasons including to hearing the latest news or connecting with people from around the world. However, it can also be a very toxic platform for cyberbullying and body shaming. Before social media, students could go home to escape judgement and bullying, but now anyone can see what you are doing after school with social media. This has increased the pressure for students to act perfect all the time. Since 2000, suicide rates of students in high school has increased by 30% and is still one of the biggest benefactors to serious mental health issues. A mental health class could teach students how to use social media in a healthy and safe way. It could also teach students how to handle cyberbullying and give them a free safe environment to talk about their issues. Cyberbullying awareness has always been told to students through videos or posters, but if they were told through a professional mental health teacher then it might lower suicide rates.

Mental health has been a touchy subject to most because for older generations it implies that the person with it is crazy, especially in more conservative states. However, that negative stigma about mental health is risking the lives of our youth because they think it’s wrong to get help. A mandatory mental health class will help open up students and future parents to discuss it openly with others without feeling shame or ridicule. Currently, Texas only acknowledges that there is an issue with mental health among students, but does little about it. The farthest they have gone is offer free counseling sessions to any student in need, but it is not promoted enough for students to know it exists. Some students also do not feel comfortable talking to a random counselor distributed from the state, so making mandatory mental health classes in all high schools will ensure that all students will get the help they need. They will also have a trained teacher they will have known for an entire year to talk to if they need any more  help or advice. The reason Texas does not provide more in the mental health department in high schools is because like sex education, they believe it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children about such matters. This is a very black and white way of looking at families as if they are all functional enough to talk about those issues and as a result many students get left in the dark. Families can also be the cause of mental health problems, so giving students a place outside of the home to get help could help students who need counseling the most.

Although the state has not done much to help students with mental health issues, outside organizations like NAMI have. NAMI stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and they have several peaceful protests all over America to bring awareness to mental health. They also raise money through their protests to give students and young adults a chance to be in a safe and loving environment. You should donate to their cause or participate in their protests to help bring more awareness to mental health. You could also share their website to friends or family in need because they have a page where people with mental health issues can post their story and show to others that they are not alone. We have to start bringing awareness to mental health now to save future generations from a life of untreated anxiety or depression.