Mental Health Should be Addressed, Not Forgotten

Different types of mental health depicted on name tags. Photo provided by Creative Commons.
Different types of mental health depicted on name tags. Photo provided by Creative Commons.

Eighteen percent. Eighteen percent of teenage deaths in the United States aged between fourteen and eighteen were suicide in 2021 – almost 2000 teen suicides in a single year. Simply put, suicide should not be in the top ten leading causes of death for any age, let alone the third leading cause for teens. In addition to nearly 2000 deaths, over 100,000 teens visited emergency rooms for self harm related injuries according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2000-2021, there was a 52.2 percent increase in the suicide rate of people aged 10-24. The staggering numbers are impossible to ignore, we need to begin questioning the support in place because the system is failing, not the people. Students, teachers, parents, coaches, families, and friends should not have to wonder if they do enough for the mental health of those they care about. 

Support systems in schools have drastically changed over the past decade. In Loudoun County, each school has a Unified Mental Health Team, consisting of school counselors, psychologists, and student assistant specialists who support the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students. In addition, the county can administer crisis mental health workers in a time of emotional crisis. However, even with all of the resources and supports in place, there has still been an overall increasing trend in teenage mental illnesses and suicides across the nation. 

Woodgrove offers a variety of programs and initiatives to combat mental illness and provide awareness such as signs of suicide presentations, the Wellness Fair, and Sources of Strength. Nonetheless, there still needs to be a more significant change in education systems on integrating mental health into the curriculum. Whether that be mini lessons, case studies, or guest speakers, more needs to be done in educating everyone. 

Woodgrove psychologist, Mrs. Heidi Buckner, explains that Loudoun has much higher academic expectations than others around the nation, stemming from parents, administration, or students themselves. She notes an important difference between stress and mental illness: stress is something everyone will experience – not everyone is going to develop a mental health illness because of that stress. Moreover, she emphasized, “We [Loudoun County] do a whole lot more as far as prevention work than other counties in our surrounding area.” However, the trend still seems to be increasing in our county. We need to be doing more because right now, it’s frankly not enough. 

Loudoun needs to continue to change how they educate everyone about mental health after the pandemic. Buckner explained, “A lot of things are probably related to COVID – the lack of normalcy, the lack of social interactions, the isolation. People need to be with other people.” Although, there has been increasing suicide rates and depression over the past several years. This could be from many different issues including the pandemic, but it is impossible to say what specifically is causing the increase. She emphasized that the most important thing you can do to combat mental health issues is to avoid isolation, “That means actually interacting with people and not just interacting through a phone.” 

During the winter when days get shorter, it is easier to stay inside and not want to go out. Some days simply getting out of bed or sticking to a schedule is an accomplishment. Focus on your daily progress, not perfection. If you’re having a good day, try and do something outside of your schedule, like giving back to the community, going for a run, or reading a book. Never feel pressured to do something that stresses you out or makes you anxious. Everyone’s accomplishments are different, so avoid comparing your own to others. 

Having lost friends to suicide and the effects of mental illness, it is troubling wondering if there may be something I missed or could have done.  As a student, I feel I have been very minimally educated on mental health and how to recognize when something may not be right. More initiatives and programs are not the answer. Students need to be able to recognize when something is wrong and know how to intervene, so they can stop another statistic. 

Even though I am not a subject matter expert on the topic, I feel it is important for everyone to be educated. Mental health deserves to be at the forefront of the education system because students deserve better than what we have been given. What if students didn’t have to ask for help? What if we did not have to wonder? What if everyone was educated? What if we did enough?

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