Talking About Teen Mental Health – No Longer Taboo

Get past the stigma and be informed

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Tori Griffith, Staff Writer, Photography crew

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Many teens in high school know what it’s like to suffer from some form of mental illness or know someone that does. According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, while most adolescents experience positive mental health, one in five has had a serious mental health problem at some point in his or her life.

The good news is that promoting positive mental health can prevent some problems from starting. For young people who already have mental health disorders, early intervention and treatment can help lessen the impact on their lives. Tanya Daniels, the mental health specialist on staff at Lancaster High School, says students should be encouraged to talk about their mental health concerns, but the reality is that many are afraid and suffer in silence.

“They are obviously in distress,” she said.

Daniels advises teenagers to be proactive and reach out to someone for help.

“You don’t have to feel this way; you can get help and recover,” she said.

Some teenagers may feel that they should keep a friend’s secret when it comes to mental illness. However, she said, telling someone could mean the difference between life or death.

“With friendships it’s touchy with secrets – if you’re worried that they will harm themselves, then tell, because you could save their life.”

Admitting to mental health illness was once taboo in American society, but in recent years, the attitude has shifted to a more proactive stance. Daniels says it’s important to recognize the signs of mental illness and says, while staff and students should be aware of the signs of mental illness, teachers may have the greatest impact.

“They spend a good chunk of the day with these students who don’t get to see their counselors everyday,” she said.

“So I think it’s important that they [teachers] learn.”

Mental disorders are not a weakness or character flaw. They are actually conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect a person’s ability to relate to others and function each day (U.S. National Library of Medicine).

The warning signs that someone may be suffering from a mental illness include, but are not limited to, feelings of isolation, loss of interest, drop in grades, and thoughts of suicide. There are many resources available to help inform and spread awareness about mental illness. The most important thing anyone can do is to get over the antiquated notion that mental illness is something to hide and start talking openly about it.