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Let’s Talk Mental Health

Does your mind race uncontrollably? Are you familiar with all the emotions that come from experiencing an uneasy mind? You feel scattered, and worry, frustration and anger take over. Your body absorbs the uneasiness of the mind and a feeling of being unsettled and all over the place manifests.

Does your mind race uncontrollably? Are you familiar with all the emotions that come from experiencing an uneasy mind? You feel scattered, and worry, frustration and anger take over. Your body absorbs the uneasiness of the mind and a feeling of being unsettled and all over the place manifests. I know this feeling extremely well and I believe it comes with being human and since most of us go to our minds to sort things out we end up amplifying the discomfort. As adults we have opportunities to build awareness and know when we are causing ourselves more stress and hopefully have learned to apply practices to help elevate the stress and anxiety.

The hard stuff we find ourselves managing, whether it is societal or personal is difficult to process and articulate as an adult. Imagine how young people feel. Imagine having to witness the past year living through political turmoil and a pandemic without fully understanding what is happening. Imagine not being able to go to school, see friends, play with teammates or band mates. Imagine being told that you could be the cause of getting others sick and if you go to school, a designated “safe place” you will get sick. Now imagine trying to process of all of this with an underdeveloped frontal lope, stressed home environments, and an overdose of screen time while disengaged from what is familiar and safe. And if the young person is a challenged learner or has a preexisting mental health disorder they are at greater risk of suffering from anxiety and depression. We clearly need to confront the threat to the mental health of our children. The societal trauma caused by the pandemic is causing many young people to suffer without the proper supports in place to help them. If this is new information and you believed young people are fine now that they are back to school, I hope you will read on.

To make things clear, sufficient supports were not in place for a large number of children and adolescences experiencing mental health disorders prior to the pandemic. Culturally we don’t like to speak of issues surrounding adult mental health, so children have really been left out of the conversation. Depression, anxiety and other psychotic disorders are tucked away and forced to exist within the mind and body without acknowledgement or treatment. Each of us, no matter our age, ability or capacity deserves to build awareness and know who we are, how we best learn and how we can be best supported in our learning and our work.

Four years ago, I wrote the curriculum for the first BECOME workshop to guide young people through a self-discovery process. I wrote with an incredible amount of purpose because I understood the need for tools and strategies to help support this journey. I understand that people need to know more about themselves, what gets them out of bed in the morning and what keeps them going and moving beyond what they thought possible. This is a basic right, this is what creates excitement and joy, this is what allows us to thrive, want better and to be better. This is purpose and without understanding your purpose there is minimal motivation to get out of bed in the morning.

It’s all about uncovering values and learning about the deep connection between the mind, body, and heart. It is not about learning to believe in something outside of yourself. It is simply learning to believe in yourself. I believe in our young people, and I know many are suffering.

Beginning in April 2020 emergency department visits for young people with mental health related issues increased significantly. Visits for children aged 5-11 increased approximately 24% while children 12-17 increased 34%. Although these numbers can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website, they are not being addressed. This is the true crisis. Let’s think about it in basic terms. In March 2020 when stay at home orders were first issued our students had no idea how long they would be away from their school communities. One girl told me she was excited at first because she viewed it as a vacation and would be able to return after the short break. She had no idea she would be away from her school and friends for 13 months. Now back to school, she has an anxiety attack every morning knowing she is going to school. Her body has absorbed the trauma inflicted upon her when told her school is not safe, her friends could potentially get her sick and she could potentially get her immune compromised father sick. She is processing all this information the best she can, but there is only so much she can make sense of as a 12-year-old.

All students are doing the best they can. Parents, if you have a student athlete at home and he or she doesn’t care about school, it is because they don’t see the point to school right now. Many of them are motivated by their sport and being on a team with friends. This has been taken away, so school is pointless. If you have a student who typically does well in school and she or he has stopped doing homework and has disregarded their grades it is because they lost motivation. The isolation from friends and disconnection from school and their school community leaves them with the feeling of hopelessness. They believe there is no point. They don’t have the language to fully express how they are feeling and don’t have the brain development to process what is happening around them and all the decisions being made for them. Hopeless and powerless is how they are feeling. This is what creates trauma and why it is so important for us to talk about their challenges and provide resources for them.

My mind will continue to race until I have done all I can to support our children. Our lack of conversation and willingness to provide mental health services to those in need causes me discomfort. I believe we can get better, increase our social and emotional intelligence, and learn how to effectively address the mental health disorders inflicting children and adults. Feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness lead to anxiety and depression. Human beings deserve to feel hope and empowered. This is how we thrive. Let’s start talking.


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