My identified challenge is spreading awareness to young adults, preferably to freshman, about depression and anxiety as well as the social stigmas that affect mental illness. My solution was to lecture to freshman on mental health and talk about my personal experience with it to give a first-hand perspective of the illness. I believe health classes don’t focus as much on mental health as they should and my school has more time dedicated to college preparation than actual mental health, which I believe needs to change. I feel like more attention should be on mental health.
In a poll conducted by https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/ for American youth:
|Felt sad or hopeless (almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities during the 12 months before the survey)||29.9%||15,455|
|Seriously considered attempting suicide (during the 12 months before the survey)||17.7%||15,434|
|Made a plan about how they would attempt suicide (during the 12 months before the survey)||14.6%||15,141|
|Attempted suicide (one or more times during the 12 months before the survey)||8.6%||12,567|
|Attempted suicide that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse (during the 12 months before the survey)||2.8%||12,331|
I believe that if I had heard more information about mental illness as a freshman, I would have sought help sooner than I did. As a freshman, I didn’t want to admit or believe I had been battling mental illness for four years; I just simply convinced myself that this was something I needed to come to peace with, not something I needed to overpower. I was embarrassed and ashamed of having a mental disorder; I thought I was weird, weak and different. It wasn’t until much later on that I realized depression and anxiety are more common than I thought to be. I wasn’t alone in this. Now, I’m more aware and embrace my progress with dealing with my depression and anxiety. Even though I’m still not over it completely, I think educating the youth and letting them know that they’re not alone in this. I believe emphasizing the significance in mental health can really influence them to seek help at our school and not be ashamed of their issues.
What I did to promote awareness was team up with two other senior girls at my school and with the aid of a couple of counselors at my school, we informed the freshman about our presentations and invited them to attend. In this series of three presentations, we presented different topics: I presented about depression and anxiety and my experience with it, one of the girls did a presentation on bullying and social media as well as relationships with upperclassmen, and the other girl did a presentation on taking care of oneself throughout high school. All of these presentations were optional and were open to any freshman.
Aside from this presentation, I was able to present to sophomore health classes, providing my personal experience and allow them to ask me questions about my process of overcoming it. After presenting, my counselor informed me that at least one girl in each class went up to her afterwards and said my presentation had resonated with them. One girl has said she felt exactly how I felt and felt as if I was telling her story.
This is the first year of seniors doing presentations like this and we hope to continue it at our school. In late May, I will be leading a discussion with a junior about social anxiety and how to overcome it. I’m hoping this particular junior can also do a presentation to the upcoming freshman class next year when she is a senior. I will be attending college in-state so I could also personally come back and present to them as well, but we are still in the midst of getting upcoming seniors to take our place.
Personally, I chose freshman to be the demographic we target because from experience, I would have benefited greatly from hearing an upperclassman talk about mental health to us. In health, I wouldn’t pay much attention to the teacher, not really taking an adult’s advice because she didn’t understand. But if I had heard it from an older student, I would have paid closer attention and maybe gone to see a counselor if I was told it was okay to do so. I also think seniors would be the ideal presenters because I feel I’m matured the most this year and I think it’ll be more beneficial if a senior could walk away feeling they had made an impact before they went off for college.