First things first, I think sex ed is VERY important and I am very much for it's updated, COMPREHENSIVE presence. I think it is necessary to teach students about their bodies and how they function the glories and dangers that come with them. However, it shouldn't just be our physical bodies that we focus on so much in our schools.
Our brains are just as important if not more so, and I find it crazy that there has yet to be a sort of mandate and expectation for it like that of sex ed.
Did you know that one in five children ages 13 to 18 has a mental disorder of some kind? Did you know that 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14? Did you know that 50 percent of Children and Youth in the child welfare system have mental health disorders? Did you know that the average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8 to 10 years? Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24?
These are all facts that come straight from the government-funded website that specializes in mental health. Yet somehow it has not been made necessary for there to be mental health education in our schools.
I say that that must change. Nay, I say that if it does not change within five years and we have failed our nation’s future. It's easy to look at these numbers and think, “Yeah we should change this”, but what about the personal side of things? Throughout my time in the public education system from elementary school to high school, I'd say I have known about 5 peers that have taken their own lives. That’s five sons and daughters that parents will never see you walk the stage at graduation.
That’s five friends that won’t go to prom in their friend group as planned. That’s five students that will never find their passion because of one special teacher. That’s five siblings that will never stand at the altar at their brother or sister’s weddings. That’s five minds that will never be able to fully contribute all they could offer to society.
You’ve heard this all before. You’ve read the news stories, seen the Facebook posts, even comforted your own kid when things felt like they were too much. Who is to say that maybe if these five students had known what the signs of mental illness were, or if they didn’t feel so embarrassed or hopeless asking for help because they knew it was okay, that they would still be here today?
Fortunately, times have begun to change, and the stigma surrounding mental health is beginning to be alleviated. So, we can’t stop here. We can’t stop until we know that we have done everything to help those five students. We teach sex ed because we know it is necessary. Mental health is and always has been too great to ignore. Children are so impressionable and take in every bit of information like it’s gospel.
That’s why programs like sex ed, when they are comprehensive of course, have success rates to the tune of a 50 percent decrease in teen pregnancy. We owe it to the millions of families that have lost children to suicide, or those who see their child struggle through horrid mental illness, to implement a program like this in our schools.
Mental health education could make such an impact on our youth, with something as small as learning what it even means. Teaching warning signs to kids AND parents would be even more beneficial, to hopefully catch on to an illness before it completely takes over unexpectedly.
Teaching kids that it's okay to not feel happy all the time is vital. Teaching kids that you should never, ever, bully or judge someone because you don't know what they're going through are vital. Teaching kids that the way you feel is important and not something to ignore is, again, vital. All it takes is some educating to make such a big difference in generations to come.
As you can see I am very passionate about this subject. I've seen so much hurt in myself, my friends, and my peers, and I believe there ought to be more of an initiative early on to aid those in need.
There's so much pressure and stress on kids nowadays that now more than ever it is imperative we let our kids know it's okay not to be okay. I call on students, teachers, parents, superintendents, government officials, doctors, everyone, to take a stand for mental health, and demand that children receive proper mental health education.
(All statistics come from youth.gov and nami.org)