©2010 Bob Foster
Nancy’s Corner: Teach Mental Health to Youth
Nancy's Corner

I recently wrote a guest commentary for the Gazette newspaper.  Read it all below!


My wish is that we start with educating the second- and third-grade students in our schools (about mental health)!


I have spoken to this age group in Long Beach about depression and they really seemed to grasp, and understood what I was sharing.


I also encouraged them to remember that day, with describing the symptoms of depression. Sometime in their life, they would struggle, or a friend or loved one would struggle with mental health. They would look back and be able to recognize that they needed to talk to mom or dad or help someone who needed a friend to listen.


I shared that they may be experiencing depression if they were not going out to play as often, or wanting/spending more time alone. Also, if they were having difficulty with focusing on their schoolwork, or experiencing mental confusion, or feeling sad — not enjoying life as they usually do.


I stressed, there is no shame with this illness, as with any illness. The earlier a person gets treatment, many times, the better and easier the diagnosis, and treatment responds more quickly.


One child asked me if a person can die from depression. My response, was, “Yes, a person can die from depression, but only if a person harms themself.”


This is why it so important to educate children at an early age, just as we do with sex education. Mental health could be included with this subject, as well.


People make better choices when a person’s mental health is intact, another reason to link the two together. Safe Sex!


Also, there is postpartum depression, linked with sex education. I was a victim of postpartum depression, two months after the birth of our second son. Years ago, the medical profession wasn’t nearly as educated about postpartum depression. We are still on this path of discovery and education.


For some moms, who are severely depressed, this can so be a dangerous environment for a baby, themselves, and the entire family. In the news, there are reports of moms taking their life and their children and we owe it to our students to bring awareness.


What good does a quality education provide if a person is not living a quality life, or having thoughts of suicide or eventually takes their life? 1,800 college students take their life each year. Obviously they get in a frame of mind that ending their life is their only escape from the excruciating mental and actual physical pain. They keep this pain to themselves. They also can be experiencing shame.


The mindset of a person suffering with depression is they are surrounded with a mental state, constantly being fed thoughts that they are not worthwhile, they are less than others. There is actually a feeling of shame about how they are feeling.


This is why it is so difficult for people to go for help, along with the stigma associated with mental illness, and huge self-doubt, and with depression, it is duplicated.


With information and education, come familiarity. And familiarity means being more comfortable with a subject. A person is more likely to share and feel in control of their life with this knowledge.


Educating about mental health can also help avoid drug abuse. Teens mask the pain associated with depression with drinking and drugs, called self-medicating. Then the problem of addiction kicks in. Now, a person has two problems to address, making it more difficult.


If an addict’s life gets out of control, it can bring incarceration, dropping out of school, loss of furthering one’s education, no interest in ones community. There is separation from the family, and the worst overdosing, which is on the rise again in teenagers, heroin addiction. Black tar heroin is less expensive, and is a huge problem again.


Getting back to the school children I spoke to, their thank-you notes clearly displayed that these children understand the importance of their mental health, and they were appreciative. They understood what I shared, and they will look back on that day in that classroom and remember. I am so pleased to have had that opportunity to talk, share with these children. I will never forget it. It’s one of the highlights of my life.


Thank you again, and I look forward to more discussion, along with working on alleviating the stigma associated with mental illness.




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