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Back to School Doesn’t Have to Mean Back to Stigma

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Lisa Prather

Campaign Manager for the National Council for Behavioral Health

Back to School Doesn’t Have to Mean Back to Stigma

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It was late one weekday. I had just gotten up from one of my long naps that characterized countless vain attempts to sleep away depressive thoughts. I got out of bed and took several steps to the door. Instantly, thoughts flooded my mind and the image of that kid at school who didn’t return my messages, who I truly believed hated my guts, flashed across my memory.

I tried to be cool. I tried to be confident. But the panic came like a wave, and it was just enough to cause me to collapse. I gained consciousness nearly just as soon as I had lost it and, though I injured my knee in the fall, no one in the house heard a sound.

That’s often how it was suffering from depression and anxiety. No one heard a sound. No one suspected a thing. Racing thoughts, sweating, fear and the stomach issues that prevented me from eating – all silent.

As we embrace National Back to School Month this August, it is important that we as adults remember the unique and complex mental health challenges that many youth face during the school year.

Though many children and adolescents struggle with mental health issues year-round, the transition from summer holiday to the first semester back at school has the potential to complicate pre-existing mental health challenges.

Pressure to perform well in academics and extra-curricular activities, paired with the threat of judgement from peers and misunderstanding from teachers – if left unaddressed – can cause a perfect storm of mental health issue-inducing triggers.

According to America’s Mental Health 2018:

  • Nearly one in two Americans of Generation Z experienced the adverse effects of poor mental health on their physical health, and 38 percent have sought mental health treatment for being suicidal.

Younger Americans are most impacted by the stigma of mental health care. Nearly 50 percent of Generation Z has worried about others judging them when they say they’ve sought mental health services.

There’s a lot of talk about ending stigma floating around in conversations, on social media and on TV, but what can we actually do for youth and others affected by it?

As a part of the America’s Mental Health Campaign, we want to help you deconstruct stigma and become a resource for those needing mental health care. Being aware of the importance of mental health is good; but being educated on what to do when someone needs help is better.

Education makes a difference. By talking about mental health, showing people that they aren’t alone and that they have a place to go for help, we can give them a chance at recovery.

Take action today by getting educated:

As we dive headfirst back into the school year, let’s be on the lookout for how we can be a resource to youth in need of mental health services. Remember, when a young person is struggling, it’s up to us to notice.

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