MIND OVER MATTER

The rise in mental health cases is making awareness increasingly imperative.

 Cacophonous sounds radiated through the courtyard as students filed their way through the big green gates. Rows of cheerleaders with glistening smiles enthusiastically shook their green and yellow pom-poms. The frivolous banging of drums and crashing cymbals resonated, rattling the young girl’s brain with force. Everyone was looking at her. Every bang, crash and cheer was tugging at her brain, fighting for equal attention. She was at her breaking point. Cuffing her ears, she darted into the auditorium, where the noises finally disappeared. The rattling subsided and her brain was free again. 

     For some people, loud noises and excitement may evoke a sense of thrill and happiness, but for individuals with anxiety, this might not always be the case. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders tend to affect approximately “25.1% of children between 13-18.” Alongside this, 18.1% of adults in the United States are said to be affected by some type of anxiety disorder every year. When taking this into perspective, one can see how society from all angles is widely impacted by anxiety and its effects. Although anxiety is a common mental health disorder, it is not the only prevalent mental health condition into which society has been exposed. 

     Lizzo. Kid Cudi. Demetrius Harmon. J.K. Rowling. All notable names within modern society with equally notable appearances, yet behind their name and position, are battle with debilitating internal thoughts and emotions. Mental health has impacted an innumerable amount of individuals from past to present. The extent to which mental health issues impact lives vary, but major contributors lie within a multitude of misconstrued circumstances. 

 

 

What are some common misconceptions about mental health?

Often times, individuals with mental health illnesses are automatically labeled as incapable of doing certain things. That is not always the case. In fact, detecting an individual who may be suffering from a mental health disorder may not be as apparent as these disorders range in their severity. For individuals suffering from severe and chronic disorders, it is important to know that they are just as capable, they just require more support. If an individual is not suffering from a severe and chronic disorder, but from something less severe, they are just as high functioning and may only need services for shorter amounts of time.  

Sometimes students believe individuals who suffer from mental health seek a therapist because they have no one else to discuss their issues with. This does not tell the whole story. Students and adults may not feel comfortable discussing a very personal issue with peers and rely on an adult who can provide that sense of support and comfort. In adolescence it is especially normal to want some distance from parents, so students may want to talk to an adult who is unrelated. Additionally, individuals may also need support from a mental health professional to build social skills, which could later  branch into their future support system. Help is often overlooked and taken for granted so students should learn that there is no shame in getting help from accessible resources in and out of school.

 

How are societal stigmas impacting our understanding of mental health?

      In some cases, societal stigmas are both positively and negatively impacting student’s understanding of mental health. With the influx of shows, such as Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, and HBO’s Euphoria, depicting mental health on the big screen, many students are becoming exposed to the dangers and essence of mental health. In some instances, these depictions influence students to get help, while others begin to perceive it as commonplace. As a society, America has witnessed the need for better access to mental health services and prevention after the increase in global mass shootings. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, set the precedents for the Florida Public Safety Act that pushed for not only school safety, but also the improvement of mental health access. According to the Florida Department of Education, 170 schools in Palm Beach County were assigned School Behavioral Health Professionals in the 2019-2020 fiscal years. Additionally, the district even increased the number of full-time Psychologists present within Palm Beach Schools by nearly 45%.  With new legislation addressing the mental health crises, comes greater public awareness. Students should become aware that mental health can be treated and that services are available both in and out of school.   

 

What are some of the warning signs? 

  Warning signs can vary, depending on the mental health illness and the extent to which it may be affecting an individual. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Palm Beach County, some of the common warning signs range from emotional to physical. Often times, individuals suffering from mental health may

 

-Excessively worry or fear .

-Experience drastic mood shifts (irritability to euphoria).

-Avoid social interaction, especially with friends and family.

-Experience prolonged lethargy and fatigue.

-Abuse alcohol and drugs.

-Think about self-harming oneself.

-Lack the ability to partake in daily activities.

-Give up food and starve oneself.

 

How and where can you find a mental health professional to help?

Fortunately, reinforcements within schools nationwide have made it easier for students to access mental health professionals and get the help they need Smith, for example, is available to help students all throughout the week. 

 

“My office is located in Counseling Services 1-118. I am here [from] 7:15[AM]-3:15[PM] Monday through Fridays. I am available to see students during lunch as well,” Smith disclosed.

Accessing a mental health professional through the school is not the only option; in fact, students can talk with parents or guardians to receive additional services outside the school environment. Services range from the NAMI of Palm Beach County to St. Mary’s Institute for Mental Health. All of these services ensure that both children and adults within Palm Beach county receive the proper care and support they need.

It is important to know that peers and staff can also have a huge impact on someone’s mental health. As a school, stepping up and looking after each other in times of distress can be beneficial. Spreading positivity and lending an ear to someone who may need it may be a small step for society, but a major leap for the school community. Not everyone can deal with these issues by themselves, but with a strong school support system, awareness efforts and overall togetherness, positive changes can occur.

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