Mandate Mental Health Education in WA State high schools.

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Washington State Youth need urgent attention and action from adults regarding mental health. I'm sure you've heard the talk about withdrawn parents in our society, increased risky behaviors among youth, or maybe even just the generalized talk of a "generation who lacks respect", however, what action steps have been put in motion to address these issues? Regardless of the difference of opinion regarding the root of the adolescent mental health crisis, it's fact to say that there simply are not enough resources for adolescents facing a spectrum of mental health issues including:

1. Bullying/Healthy Relationships
2. Body image issues/Eating disorders
3. Anxiety/Depression
4. Self Harm/Suicidal Ideation and Tendencies
5. Substance Abuse Disorders 
6. Homelessness/Navigating the Foster Care System/Socio-Economic Status
7. Identity Crisis/Disorder
8. Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Abuse
9. Mental Health Diagnosis (bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD, Aspergers, etc.)
10. STIGMA

...and many more.

According to The Department of Health in Washington State:

  • In a survey of parents, it was found that 1 out of every 10 children (around 8%) between the ages of 12 and 17 had an ongoing mental health need that could be defined as developmental, emotional, or behavioral.
  • 14% of adolescents in WA state claim they receive counseling for their mental health issues, while a staggering 48% say they need help but do not have the resources to get it. 
  • 1 in 2 students (50%) at any given time will continuously be trying to lose weight, while 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys admitted to participating in risky diet behaviors or other weight lost strategie, such as laxative use. 
  • 1 in 3 adolescents in high school (around 29%)  reported feeling serious depression symptoms within the last year.
  • 1 in 3 students ( around 28%) of students claim to have been a victim of serious bullying at one time or another. 
  • "Between 16-20% of 8th, 10th and 12th Graders in Washington reported seriously considering suicide in the previous year, about 14-16% also reported making a plan about how they would kill themselves...Between 8-10% reported attempting suicide."
  • 5% of Wa state adolescents have used illicit drugs in the past year. This averages out to be about 60,000 adolescents/year in WA alone. 
  • Among WA state high school seniors, 23% identified their drinking habits as "problematic".
  • 30% of kids in WA state admit to using marijuana by the 10th grade.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • 10% of adolescents report being in a mentally, physically, or emotionally abusive relationship. 
  • 40% of U.S. States let minors decide to consent to mental health treatment or not, regardless of parent recommendation or requests.
  • 18% of adolescents can be defined as living below the poverty line in the United States.

Did you Know?

That the State of Washington has officially declared a State of Emergency in the Foster Care system as there are not enough homes and families to support the number of homeless children?

Solution Proposition

Statistics show that Mental health Issues are on the rise like never before. Perhaps they stem from the continuous technology use of the Millennials and all the generations following them. Perhaps they are showing with the increase in mass shootings and fatalities occurring, even in small WA state communities close to home. Whatever the root and whatever the consequence, it is of the upmost importance that state representatives begin to put precautions in place to assist the next generation of leaders who are growing up in this era.

With approximately 1.1 million students enrolled in Washington State schools in 2013, I propose that we begin to address the present mental health crisis by mandating the addition of mental health education into educational curriculum. There is no way to end, slow, or even understand the crisis unless we educate those who will inevitably experience these risk factors and break the stigma associated with being vulnerable to them.

This happens when we speak out. This happens when we call for change.



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