To Get a Leg Up, Start Teaching Mental Health in Junior High
Ever wonder why mental health is not taught in schools? Likely not, if you are of the mainstream mindset. But a majority of the population is affected by mental illness.
Twenty-five percent of individuals exhibit symptoms of various mental health disorders at some point in their lives, diagnosed or not (according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health). There are untold family members, mates, close friends, neighbors and colleagues who deal with it — not to mention the effect of depression, anxiety and personality disorders in our workplaces and community.
This information is generally just taught in college level public health or psychology classes, for those perhaps needing to get in one more elective before graduation. Wouldn’t it be better if we started mental health education in junior high?
Some children might start identifying what they are going through at home with an ill parent; others could begin to formulate an entirely new way of being when it comes to the stress and tension they’ll meet with throughout life. Many lives could be potentially changed if young people from junior high on began to learn signs and symptoms.
There is a whole other dimension, however, to mental illness — how to become mentally healthy instead. Becoming mentally healthy involves not just wellness programs that focus on the physical (yoga and nutrition, for example). Along with mental illness study, there are also behavioral approaches, skills and strategy for oneself, loved ones and friends — providing a balm for those afflicted and a foundation for lifelong awareness of mental health.
What exactly does teaching mental health involve? Though the list of mental illnesses is long, the remedies for good mental health for ourselves, those near us, and the broader population is shorter. It is not limited only to therapies and medications, but involves what each of us can do to learn and understand and put into practice good coping skills. Examples include:
- Learning mindfulness techniques to allay stress and being able to spot stress triggers in our own and others’ emotional lives.
- Incorporating distress tolerance tactics that move beyond our early dysfunctional patterns from elementary years (those that protected us from the pain of poor family dynamics but will serve us poorly later if not transformed).
- Learning about self-esteem and what motivates us and others near us, using that to understand relationships, change what we need to and can, and possibly better the lives of those nearby.
With the right leaders and facilitators, students immersed in behavioral problem-solving scenarios and study will emerge at the other end far more equipped to tackle such difficult issues. If mental health were taught in schools, society might look very different.
Miles, L. (2013). To Get a Leg Up, Start Teaching Mental Health in Junior High. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/08/08/to-get-a-leg-up-start-teaching-mental-health-in-junior-high/