We know that mental health can be an uncomfortable subject, especially when it comes to pre-teens and young people. But, as many states are beginning to realize, starting the conversation early can be extremely beneficial. Just this past month, in fact, New York and Virginia have required mental health education at the elementary school level.
The key here is early intervention and letting students know that they are not alone if they’re struggling. One of the reasons that state legislators have gotten involved is because of the growing number of suicides happening among Americans aged 15 to 24. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there has been a 30 percent increase in young people who take their own life over the past 18 years.
Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds made this a personal mission for his state, following the suicide death of his 24-year-old son Austin in 2013. He believes (along with many other mental health advocates) that early intervention is the key to lowering this statistic.
“The system failed my son” Deeds explained on TheFix.com. “[Mental health] is an integral part of our overall health and should be an integral part of health education in schools. [We need to] tear down the stigma and provide some equality with those that struggle with mental health.”
New York legislators feel just as passionate about the issue. The research they put forth for their mandate showed that 90 percent of young people who commit suicide suffer from depression or some other diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death.
The two key words there are “diagnosable” and “treatable.” Both of those play into the idea of adding mental health education to the elementary classrooms. The simple math is; if you bring the conversations to the forefront, that will help you diagnose and treat young people who are suffering.
Interestingly enough, many students themselves are helping to advocate for these changes. Over in Virginia, it was the high schoolers of Albemarle County who helped present the proposal to get the initiative passed. Many testified that they, themselves, had seen fellow classmates suffer and die because of mental illness.
This is something we at inneractions firmly believe in as well. Truth be told, half of lifetime mental health issues develop before the age of 14. So we advise any parent or young person to open up the dialogue and not let these problems go untreated.