In New Jersey, it is required to take four years of gym class--three quarters of physical education and one quarter of health per year. In these four years of health, I learned so many valuable things. My freshman year, I learned about drugs, alcohol, and STI's; driver's ed my sophomore year, first aid my junior year. And during my senior year, I will learn things like pregnancy, dating violence, and family relationships. But I think it is super important that we have a required course, or even an elective, that has something to do with mental health. It is crucial for young adults to learn skills for coping with stress, mental illnesses that are common in their age range, signs of a suicidal person, and other important topics relating to mental health.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24-year-olds in the United States. Studies show that 90% of teens that commit suicide have mental health issues, such as, depression, anxiety, or a behavior problem. Since the age group is primarily ages of teens in high school, there has to be more we can do to prevent the rate from going up and get it to be at an all-time low. Teaching a class that involves recognizing the signs of someone being suicidal will ensure that people will know when a friend or classmate needs immediate help. Also, giving teens resources like suicide hotlines, texting lines, and letting them know that counseling is always open to talk about these kinds of issues will help them know they are in a safe environment to get help.
High school is extremely stressful. Especially in junior and senior year when we start to look at the future of our lives. Things can start piling and piling and sometimes, kids don't really know how to cope with stress. And the build up of stress can lead to huge mental breakdowns when they don't know where to go next. Having a class on mental health can teach high schoolers how to handle stress, manage their time, and coping skills to prevent build ups and mental breakdowns. Lowering the anxiety and stress in students will further lower the rate of suicide in high school ages.
By having a class required or offered where the main focus is mental health, we can open many more doors in high schools everywhere to let students know that you can go to teachers and staff for help. Sometimes, teens don't feel like their parents will accept that they're having problems they can't explain, so going to a teacher they trust can be the better option. A lot of students don't know that teachers and staff in schools are here to help them get through issues like this. You are not and you cannot go through these issues alone. We need to promote this idea and get the mental health of teens on track.
Editor's note: If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.