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Mental Health in Our Schools



May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. A month to make others aware that mental health exists. But it exists 24/7, 365 days a year. It exists from birth to death. Which means it exists in our schools. It is a health crisis in many high school communities. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 50% off all diagnosed mental illnesses develop by age 14, 75% by age 24. One in 5 adults experience mental illness each year, 1 in 20 experience SERIOUS mental illness. Yet it is not talked about. Not like cancer, diabetes, not even as much as Crohn's disease (count the Crohn's ads versus the depression ads on TV). We must, MUST, address the issue in our schools. We must have more counselors. Counselors that are not stretched thin between standardized testing, scheduling, career and college advising. We must help our teachers learn to see warning signs. We must train our administrators to know when to intervene. We need to talk about mental health openly in the classroom. We need to get rid of the stigmatism portions of our our society place upon mental illness.


In PA a recent bill was submitted (but died in committee) that addresses educator training. I FULLY support and encourage initiatives such as PA House Bill 2873, The Safety and Violence Education (SAVE) Students Act, which requires staff and students be educated on suicide prevention, and faculty and staff receive additional training in identifying signs and signals of depression, suicide, self-injury and other mental health issues. Studies have shown that this training and education help prevent school violence and empower everyone in the school community to help keep schools safe.



I do applaud the health and physical education faculty of WMS and WHS for adding mental health lessons to the secondary schools' curriculum. I thank them for taking the crisis with our youth seriously. I will work to make sure mental health is taught at all levels, including kindergarten.


Why is this an issue I am passionate about? Two very simple reasons. The first, our family lost a good friend to suicide. Someone in the WSD community. And second, I myself have depressive episodes. I was not diagnosed until I was in my 40's. I do not want anyone to wait that long for a diagnosis. I want our children to get the health care they deserve. I want the adults in their life to understand mental illness and not sweep it under a rug. School Boards that address mental health in their schools are important to their communities, and to our future generations.






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