Letter to the editor: Adopt this program
To the editor:
Recently, Johnson County Mental Health Center began efforts to include education about mental health and substance abuse in Johnson County schools.
Developed by EverFi Inc., the new course “introduces students to the experiences of others in order to develop awareness and empathy, reduce stigma and provide facts on the prevalence and symptoms of mental health conditions,” according to the Johnson County Mental Health Center.
If our community were to design and implement such a program, great benefits would appear over time, most notably, increasing prevention of serious and negative outcomes — jail, violence, suicide, lives ruined, lost jobs — that cost far more than treatment.
Using age-appropriate content at each level — elementary, middle and high school — learning would be reinforced through repetition across the developing years to ensure the full benefits of the program.
One example of what might be presented in elementary school is “The Storm in My Brain,” a pamphlet created years ago by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for children.
I hope Johnson County intends to bring people with lived experience of mental illness or substance abuse into classrooms to talk directly with students, because that is key to the success of such a program.
In the 1990s, my mentor, Bryce Miller, and I visited a high school class in Topeka to converse with students about mental illness and our experiences. When we left, I felt the stigma leaving with us.
As adults, our students will be more likely to vote for, and invest in, mental health projects.