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Ending the silence about mental illness

One in six youth in the United States experience a mental health disorder and approximately 50% of these children and teens don’t receive any treatment for their illness.

The low treatment rates are caused by several factors that include the failure to recognize the youth’s behaviors as being caused by mental illness, the denial or “stigma” that is associated with mental illness, and poor or no health insurance coverage for mental illness.

Youth whose parents or caregivers recognize the symptoms of mental illness and seek medical treatment, counseling and support services for them have a very good chance of overcoming their illness and leading normal lives.

Youth whose mental illness symptoms are not recognized and treated have a higher chance of dropping out of school, seeking and taking drugs, planning and attempting suicide (the second leading cause of death for people between the age of 10 to 24), and eventually being incarcerated or becoming homeless.

We all know that mental illness and suicide have long been “taboo” subjects and swept under the rug in many families. When a child ends up in a psychiatric ward, the parents may just claim that they have the flu or even a broken bone.

Not only is this harmful to the child, who is shamed for what they cannot control, it can be harmful to the general public as well. It is teaching and embedding the culture of stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide, and even treatment methods for mental illness and suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Gainesville’s Ending the Silence is a free 50-minute presentation designed to equip middle and high school students with the tools to recognize mental illness. It teaches how to navigate and cope with emotions in an open and healthy way and offers information about mental health and suicide prevention for students, families, teachers and friends. It also enables students to spot others who could be in a mental health crisis and shows them what they can do to help.

Radha Selvester, one of NAMI Gainesville’s Ending the Silence presenters, says that, “Ending the Silence is a powerful presentation for adolescents about mental wellness, recognizing symptoms of mental illness and suicidal behaviors, and ways to overcome stigma so help is easier to access. It’s taught by a parent and young adult with personal, lived experience.”

I am incredibly thankful to be a part of the initiative to present Ending the Silence to every eighth and 11th grade student in Alachua County. As an Ending the Silence presenter myself, I share my own story and personal experiences as a high school student who had severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

Nothing in my life has been more fulfilling than this opportunity to offer students a vision of hope — I see myself when I look into their eyes, I’ve been where they are, but I have also found that a beautiful and amazing life can be waiting on the other side of all that pain.

At the end of the day, only good things can come from being open and honest about mental health and suicide. Letting students see that they are not alone, that it’s OK to ask for help, will save more lives in more ways than we think.

Source by : Gabrielle Benefield



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