Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let's Talk about Mental Health...

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Image Credit: eachmindmatters.org

On May 13th, 2014, over approximately 1,500 people gathered on the steps of the California State Capitol to share ideas, tools, and resources for reducing stigma and raising mental health awareness. "Mental Health Matters Day" is part of an ongoing movement in California, fueled by Proposition 63, to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and to increase awareness and access to mental health services in local communities across the state.

Image Credit: eachmindmatters.org

As a school counselor, I feel it is very important to talk about mental illness - an issue that affects 61.5 million adults in America each year.

"A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to related to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life."

"Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible."

"Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan."

Image Credit: childmind.org

Mental Illness and Children
Many are less familiar with is how mental illness can affect children and adolescents. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays - sometimes decades - between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. 
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent. Almost one-half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year. 
  • Over 50 percent of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older who are served by special education drop out - the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

Image Credit: Huffington Post

When Should I Be Concerned?
Below are a few tools that parents can reference if they have concerns about a child's behavior or recent changes in mood. Keep in mind that tools are only to provide reference and that any ongoing concerns should be addressed by the student's pediatrician or a mental health professional. 


It's important to remember that there are many children living with a parent that has mental illness. This may impact the student in a number of ways, including emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. Depending on the parent's access to resources and treatment, the student may not be in a 
stable environment or lacking the additional academic support at home. Additionally, cultural factors play a huge part in whether individuals with mental health seek treatment and services. These include language, cultural/community views of mental illnesses, and religion. 


NAMI: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=Child_and_Adolescent_Action_Center
HERE you can find some excellent resources provided by NAMI for parents and caregivers of students which includes parenting resources, treatment and best practices, and much more. They even have resources for schools and child-serving professionals (HERE).

Interested in the other ways Proposition 63 is working to reduce the stigma of mental illness across California? Watch this Public Television documentary created by KVIE in Sacramento. "A New State of Mind" will air on KVIE on May 30th, 2014. You can also watch it at this link HERE or below. Another documentary, titled, "A Choice to Heal - Mental Health in California"will be aired on CBS stations on May 31, 2014 in the cities of Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco, and Lost Angeles. This documentary will be hosted by Kevin Hines (http://www.kevinhinesstory.com), a survivor of his own suicide attempt 14 years ago and will also feature Mariel Hemingway, who addresses the history of mental illness in her own family. 

If you have additional questions about mental health or would like further information about how to bring awareness to the issue, you may contact me directly at chines@natomascharter.org.