Stop the stigma, make help accessible, not shameful

Ella Underwood, Staff Writer

In 2017, my sixth grade year, I was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and mild PTSD. I couldn’t walk into school without having a panic attack. I would break down outside the building, begging not to go in because of how much fear I was experiencing. I am being very transparent and vulnerable to explain why this world should be more accessible to people with mental disorders. From anxiety and depression to DID (dissociative identity disorder) and Tourettes, we are too afraid to talk about these issues because it makes us vulnerable.
One in four adults in the U.S. suffer from some sort of mental illness as stated by the National Institute of Mental Health. A mental illness as described by the National Institute of Mental Health is categorized into two groups, Any Mental Illness (AMI) or Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI refers to mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders that range from none to severe impact on one’s life. SMI refers to mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders that are very serious and impact activities done in one’s day-to-day life such as eating and sleeping.
In our schools, it is estimated that 1 in 5 teens have a mental illness. Yes, we have social workers in the school and willing to help out, but is that enough? How should teachers react and interact with a student who is experiencing a panic attack or a depressive episode? Teachers should have basic knowledge on how to react when a student is experiencing these uncomfortable feelings. I have had a couple of teachers who either didn’t understand or straight up didn’t think that I was suffering. If we want students to be comfortable in class and in the building, we have to give them the resources they need to feel safe.
Not only are today’s students suffering from anxiety and depression, some may be suffering something more severe in silence. DID, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, ADHD, ODD, OCD, etc. are all disorders that are usually suffered in silence. These students feel that people can’t or won’t help them or they are ashamed. We need to teach people that mental health isn’t something to be ashamed. Students should feel safe to talk to a social worker or another trusted adult about the issues they are facing. All of these disorders can be deadly. Youth suicide rate has dramatically increased over the years, in some states in the US increasing by 64%.
Anxiety and depression only scratches the surface of different mental illnesses. These disorders can expand and get even more complex. We all have to come together and make sure people are educated on these complex disorders so we can better help those that are suffering. According to Mental Health First AID USA, only 48% of adults receive help for their mental health. That is for people who receive the help. Imagine how many people are seeking help but aren’t getting it. This number has to be much higher, especially for people with more complex issues. We need more people willing to take the time and patience to take care of these people. They cannot do it themselves, it is difficult. We need to come together and come up with a solution for those that are struggling.
According to wellness reporter writing for USA Today Alia E. Dastagir, “Spotty mental health screening, poor access to mental health services and stigma may also be obstacles to getting help to those considering suicide.” We are killing today’s youth. If you are considering suicide, please call the suicide prevention hotline: 800-273-8255. On the topic of the hotline, there is consideration for changing the number to 988, a shorter more memorizable number like 911. Hopefully, we can put this three digit number in full effect.