Youth Blog: Why We Need Mental Health Services At Schools

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This blog post is by Cindy Wu, a Student Health Advocate at OSBHA. Thanks to the work of OSBHA Student Health Advocates along with many other youth and OSBHA partners across Oregon, our 2018 request to the Oregon Legislature for additional mental health funding in schools was granted! Starting in July, Oregon schools will have close to an additional $1 million to support mental health services. 

Mental health. What is it and why is it important? Mental health is the health of our psychological, social, and emotional well-being. Mental health is the foundation of life, it affects how we think, feel and act. Having a healthy mental state can improve the quality of life and is vital to one’s success, both in school and at work. Mental health can strengthen and support our ability to make good life choices, to have happy relationships, maintain physical health, and discover how we can grow towards our potential as well as handling life’s ups and downs.

In a perfect world, we would all have a healthy mentality. Unfortunately, that is not the case. According to Mental Health America, mental health in our youth is worsening. There has been an increase of approximately 2.3% from 2012 to 2015 of severe depression; and the percentage continues to grow. Sadly, 76% of our youth receive little to zero treatment. Without treatment, poor mental health can worsen, often leading one to become suicidal. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 10 to 14, and it is the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 to 34. Teens who have a lack of a support network and services are more at risk, which is why it is important to make sure that schools offer mental health services on campus, opening up a network of support for those who need it.

School is hard, whether it is high school or college, it creates a lot of stress and pressure onto our students. Children spend about 7 hours of their life Mondays through Fridays at school. Even when outside of school, according to OECD, the average 15 year old spends up to 6 hours on homework each week. Personally, as a Junior in high school I spend about 20+ hours on homework each week, and that’s not a lot compared to some of my peers. In addition to academics, students have to deal with extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, volunteering, work, etcetera. In an environment like that, with the pressure to do good in school and competition among peers, it can create a stressful and unhealthy mentality onto our youth. We may never know what goes on in someone’s life, but being able to offer support and letting them know that they are not alone during their times of difficulty can make a big difference.

Research shows that students who receive social–emotional and mental health support achieve better academically and tend to show better classroom behavior. However, only 40% of students with mental health issues seek help. But studies have shown that when schools offer access to mental health services on campus, students are more likely to seek counseling. Students with mental illnesses need to know that when they need help there is a place for them in the wellness centers or therapist’s office at school. They need to know that their peers, their teachers, and the staff members at their school understand the importance of mental wellness and are there to support them. By creating a community that prioritizes mental and emotional wellness, we can help students before their problems become severe.