To the editor:
Imagine that your fifth-grade teacher says: “Class, today we are going to talk about mental health and mental illness.”
Would that not, instantaneously, begin a reduction in stigma? If mental illnesses were discussed in an age-appropriate and effective way over that one week in elementary school, would that not pave the way for students to begin to accept them as real and as topics that can be talked about?
And repeated in middle school, again, in an age-appropriate way, probably in greater detail, with a young adult living with mental illness talking about their illness and experiences. Consider that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for individuals aged 10-14 and the second-leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-24, would this not be essential?
And in high school, as a part of the course material in a mandatory mental health and human relations class. The class could also teach techniques for stress reduction, mindfulness, meditation and skills from various disciplines. At this point, people may begin to self-identify and seek help, learn to recognize signs of severe depression and suicidal (or homicidal) ideation and respond effectively.
Some may observe signs of deep anger and potential for violence in others and would know how to report and to whom. This produces a generation of people who will be more open to vote in support of a robust, effective mental health system that would be available across our community and a cadre of teachers who could help spread the word.