Everyone has mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) defined mental health as an important part of overall mental health and well-being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Improving people’s mental health should be a common goal for everyone. Many concerns come with mental health. One of these concerns being the harsh stigma and stereotypes that follow in society if someone has poor mental health or illness. Reducing mental illness stigma would help tremendously in allowing people to reach out for help.
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According to a 2004 report, the World Health Organization found that between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health concerns never sought out treatment. This has a direct affect with the stigma and stereotypes of it. People can be embarrassed to ask for help. According to psychologist, David Susman, there are eight reasons why people do not seek treatment for mental illness. Number one is that people have fear and shame that they have a problem. No one wants to be labeled, or judged for having a “problem”. Number two is the lack of insight. This also means they can be in denial about what’s really going on, and the lack of knowledge available to them. Number three is limited awareness. Hence, why we need more education on mental health to give people the proper knowledge that they need. Number four is feeling inadequate, or feel as though they have failed. When someone is embarrassed or doesn’t feel right about themselves, it makes it extremely difficult to ask for help. Number five, is feeling distrust towards people.
This makes it hard to talk to doctors or therapists, or even other trusted adults. Number six is hopelessness, or the feeling that one will never get better. This could be a feeling that a person is stuck in the current state of mind that they are in. Number seven is unavailability, or not knowing where to get help. Depending on where that person lives, it could be difficult for them to find help as well or even knowing where to go. Finally, number eight is practical barriers such as being unable to pay for help, or other scheduling issues, or the inability to access help.
One of the first things that we can do, is start really educating kids. This can start in middle school, continue through high school, and even through college. When teachers were interviewed, they were asked how they taught mental health. Their mental health unit started off with an in-depth description on what mental health really is to let the kids get a general knowledge about it. Following that brief explanation, they then would lecture about the specific illnesses that came with it. This included eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. When it comes to eating disorders, there were four disorders that were taught. The first one being anorexia nervosa. This disorder consists of people restricting type of food they eat. This causes them to be extremely underweight, and sometimes close to death because of it. Bulimia nervosa was the next disorder discussed. This disorder consists of eating large amounts of food, followed by self-induced vomiting, again extremely unhealthy. The third eating disorder taught was binge eating. Binge eating is where a person eats a large amount of food over and over again. They then can feel terribly about themselves afterwards. The final disorder discussed is purging. Purging is self-induced vomiting to control weight, when a person feels unhappy about themselves and/or their bodies.
A lot of the time, people may have body dysmorphia, which means they cannot stop obsessing over their body’s “flaws”. However, other people can’t see the flaws of a person that suffers from body dysmorphia. All of these eating disorders happen to people, and to be educated is important for anyone’s general knowledge. Education leads to understanding, which leads to acceptance. After the eating disorder unit, then the anxiety disorder unit begins. The four examples of anxiety disorders include: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and phobias. Generalized anxiety disorder is extreme worry that is hard to control, and affects many people in the world’s everyday life. Social anxiety is an intense fear of being negatively judged by others. Their symptoms are similar to someone with generalized anxiety disorder, when they are experiencing panic, or the feeling of being judged. Separation anxiety is a disorder that a person has when they are separated from a person that they’re attached to. When this happens, they are overwhelmed with extreme anxiety, again similar to generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.
The last anxiety disorder that teachers discuss are specific phobias. This is when a person has an irrational fear that can be triggered by anything. Some phobias include: arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), typanophobia (fear of injections), or mysiohobia (fear of germs). These are all just a few examples of what some people can suffer from the many, many that are out there. After the anxiety disorders unit, the final unit explaining different illnesses is the mood disorders unit. Major depressive disorder was the first illness introduced. This one was the first because it is more well known. A lot of people say, “that’s depressing” or “I’m depressed”, but they say it in a sense that they are just upset about something, and not really sad. Some people don’t even know what it really means. To be educated about it is important. Being depressed means a person feels extreme sadness, and hopelessness that lasts at least two weeks, along with other symptoms.
The next disorder is bipolar disorder, also referred as manic-depression. With this disorder, there are a couple of types. These types include: bipolar I disorder, and bipolar II disorder. Bipolar disorder is when someone has mania, which is when someone engages in dangerous stunts, as well as having depression, sometimes even both at the same time. An example could be decreased sleep, racing thoughts, and pleasure seeking. Bipolar II disorder is similar to bipolar I, but less severe, again both can happen at the same time. The last disorder discussed was the seasonal affective disorder. This is a certain type of depression that happens around the winter. This disorder causes a person to feel depressed during the shorter days of the year.
After kids were taught about each specific mental illness, and what each person could go through, teachers talk about stigma and stereotypes that surround mental illness. They start off by asking the class how they feel about someone with a mental illness, or common stigmas that they know of. To many of the kids, it was a fear that they thought of when thinking about mentally ill people. Other kids would say that people with a mental illness are crazy, or unstable. Some might say that they are criminals. However, all of these assumptions could not be farther than the truth. Some reasons that kids are getting this stigma is because of the media. When it comes to headlines, the press can be cruel to people with an illness, even if they aren’t trying to be. Wording is important when addressing anyone, not just someone with a mental illness. It is stereotyped that people with mental illnesses are dangerous or unpredictable, when in reality, that is not the case for most people. For example, when a terrible event happens in the world, the first thought of the population could be “that person must be mentally ill or crazy” I found some news headlines and some of the titles were appalling.
For example, when the headlines use the terms crazy or bonkers, people read that and think all mentally ill people are like that. People with a mental illness should be encouraged to receive treatment, not mocked or laughed at. It’s time we all stop dehumanizing people with mental illness. We are all people, and we all have the same worth. It’s time we start treating people like that. When it comes to treatment in Red Wing, Minnesota, there are a few places kids can reach out to. The very first place people would normally think to reach out to would be parents, or family. However, sometimes when someone is sick, it may seem hard to talk to the people closest to them. If someone does not want to reach out to a parent or family member there are other places to reach out to. One person to reach out to could be talking to a trusted teacher. Teachers are always there to help kids out with anything, not just homework. Another option would be to talk to a health teacher, especially. Patty Otteson, of Twin Bluff Middle School could be a help as well as Lisa Hanson of Red Wing High School.
In Lisa’s class, she covers some standards that are very helpful to kids. She is sure to show the kids how to access valid health information and health promoting products and services. As well as demonstrating the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors to reduce health risks. She even has the kids analyze the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors that could affect health. Finally, she teaches the kids how to demonstrate the ability to advocate for themselves and teach good communication.
These are all key components when it comes to getting a better and more positive mental health. I do not think she could be doing a better job at being honest about mental health. Both Lisa Hanson and Patty Otteson know much about mental illness, and have been around students that have the hardship of it. However, they are not trained to help someone with a mental illness, and will usually refer kids to one of the two school counselors, after talking to a student about what’s going on. School counselors aren’t only there to help students figure out their classes, but as well to be their support as they go through school. Counselors can also help students communicate with their families about what is going on, so they can get help, love, and support from their homes. These kinds of people are crucial to a child’s life and well-being during their time in school. I cannot stress enough, the importance of support in a child life growing up. Another option, in the school could be talking to a school nurse. They can direct kids to the proper help that they need as well.
At Red Wing High School, Lori Nicolai is a social worker there to also support the students. She mostly works with students that qualify for Special Education Services. However, she offers many weekly groups to address a variety of topics. These include social skills, mental health, emotional regulation and self-awareness. She can also meet with students individually to help their specific needs. Again, another great resource to kids, as long as they know that it’s there. Away from the schools, in the Mayo Clinic of Red Wing, nurses are required to ask young people if they feel safe in their homes. This would also be a great opportunity to tell a doctor about how a person is feeling, and get help. If someone isn’t feeling safe at home, or safe alone, or unsafe in their family situations, it should be encouraged to speak up, and advocate for themselves.
Although when someone is young, it may be hard to be confident enough to ask for this. When researching on the internet of help centers for mental health, I found Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center. They provide youth services consisting of supporting community youth programs, youth outpatient services, early childhood services, youth psychiatric services, and adolescence substance abuse services. This site was easy to access, and would be to any child with the access to internet. There is also a crisis text line, in which I think could be extremely helpful to adolescents as well. Kids these days, are extremely dependent on their phone, and might find it difficult to talk to an adult. With this text line, kids would be able to be themselves and really talk about how they’re truly feeling. This text line is mainly used as a suicide hotline, but counselors are always on call, and ready to talk. Mental illness is inevitable. Right now, it is impossible to get rid of mental illness in everyone. I think what the schools are doing to educate about it is great. Being educated is crucial. It’s important to start talking about it too.
For example, people with cancer, can blog about it and post all over the internet about it, and get tons of support from many people, which is great! I just wish there was more talk about that when it comes to mental health. Another example is the fact that you can call into your employer and say that you’re not feeling well, or that you have the flu, and that’s completely acceptable. However, if you were to call in and say that you want a mental health day, the employer may be acting different.
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