Mandatory Mental Health Course

Mandatory Mental Health Course

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Tiffany Thoelke started this petition to Department of Education and

I recently reached out to the Department of Education in South Dakota and have received support in my proposal, while being guided on how to impact the youth in our community and abroad. I have been informed of upcoming meetings and will attend with my proposal. In doing so my hope is that by January 14th, 2019 I have enough signatures of support to draw more attention to the need for mandatory mental health courses in front of our school board members. That my voice will be that of many, and not just one. Right now I am aware of the conversation about more facilities and such, I have yet to see anyone mention it being added as a course in our school system. If you agree, please join me by signing!

The letter reads as follows: 

To whom it may concern,

    I am writing to propose a mental health course to be offered and required taken by every student starting as early as sixth grade. While our state continues to battle an opioid epidemic and the suicide rates continue to skyrocket, I find it crucial to start taking action in ways that would impact the youth currently, and long after their educational years.

My name is Tiffany Thoelke and I have a nine-year-old son who attends Sioux Falls Public Schools. For over a decade, I have been passionate about a great need to offer mental health education to our youth. My inspiration comes by way of personal experiences as a teen, and the loss of many friends and my significant other in 2015.

      While the subject of this proposed mental health class would require lengthy conversations and an immense amount of input before finalization and implementation, I believe it is vital to start the conversation now.

It is my belief that the lack of mental health guidance and support, at a young age, particularly the start of middle school, is in partial, the cause of heartbreak and loss of the ones we love today. I also believe that with the proper education on mind training (i.e. how to handle situations as they arise, achieving positive emotions along with proper reactions etc.) our youth could see a better tomorrow.

While I believe that the main focus of this class should be on educating the youth on issues like; depression, anxiety, drug-use and the like, I also think it should provide the essential tools on how to handle issues within ourselves. It should provide guidance toward self love, maintaining a sense of self worth, and developing confidence.

I feel strongly, and the science supports that, without the right resources and tools given, one may not truly succeed. While it is apparent that many children go on to become productive adult members of society, this is not to say that they do not struggle with inner battles from some form of mental health issue at some point in their lives. Quite the contrary, in fact The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the prevalence of mental illness estimated at “approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.

As parents, we often ask ourselves how we can make our children better, providing them with better than we had. We see the loss of our youth at alarming numbers; with depression, drug-use, and gun violence as huge concerns. It is within all of these issues that I, although not a licensed psychologist, come forth as one of many strong voices of concerned parents, to say the implementation of mental health support in the form of a required course can play a most crucial role in giving our children, our society, a better future.

      The NAMI organization has proposed legislation requiring teachers and caretakers to take mental health courses to recognize when someone is struggling. While I believe that is a great step in the right direction, I do not believe it deeply touches the youth on a practical level that could change lives in much larger numbers. It is said that Mental Illness can remain unknown by our loved ones more often than not. It is from this fact that I believe this course can play a vital role in the successful and healthy future of our children. With true attention to mental health, we will offer our youth the realization that they are not alone, along with the comfort in knowing that we ALL, at one time or another experience difficulties. This will allow them to think critically and access essential tools within them, when a situation arises.  

       With this class and this proposal, my intention is to positively impact the youth with the required opportunity for them to learn about their own mental health. Currently, I feel so many young people are unaware of how to handle their emotions and therefore resort to unhealthy means simply because nobody told them how to face something difficult. Many people would argue that this educational responsibility lies on parents and within a home. However, without formal widespread attention to mental health, many children aren't getting the support they need, and a stigma remains. With this, I fear we will continue to see an exponential rise in lost lives.

Mental health aid in this community is incredibly expensive, and oftentimes financial struggle can be the very cause for mental health issues. I believe that having proper support, knowledge, and resources should be of no cost to a family, outside of what is already being paid or funded.  I think, in the long run, if children took a mental health course both in middle school and in high school, that we would see a drop in the rates of devastation and harm within our own community and abroad.

I am unaware of the current state of our local schools’ budgets, in terms of flexibility and limitations, and I realize this course may or may not be something that can be implemented in the immediate future, but I stress and sincerely ask for your consideration in beginning, and continuing the conversation of the mental health of our youth, with the sole mission of providing a required Mental Health Course to our youth.

I look forward to hearing from you,

At best,

Tiffany Thoelke



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