In Part IV, we discussed the financial impact of stress on the workforce. Today we are covering the impact of stress on our students and the resources available to help students and educators alike.
Everyone is stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling isolated – including children. In addition to schoolwork, children worry about how to keep up with home life, family, friends, being safe, and having enough to eat. Due to the electronic age, more relationships are built superficially through texting and social media. Face encounters are now replaced by phones; creating even more isolation. Federal data reports that there are an estimated 2.2 million depressed children ages 12 to 17. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the rate of adolescents experiencing major depression surged nearly 40 percent from 2005 to 2014 (Goyal, Singh, Sibinga, et al., 2014).
Mental Health Days To help children manage stress and anxiety, some schools are allowing students the option to take mental health days off from school, just as they would a sick day. On July 1, 2019 a law went into effect in Oregon giving students five mental health days in a three-month period. In 2018, Utah changed the definition of a student’s “valid excuse” to miss a day to include: an illness “which may be mental or physical.” In Oregon, the bill was supported by several teenagers including Hailey Hardcastle, a recent graduate who told The Associated Press that the bill was inspired by politically active students in Parkland, Fla., and that she and her peers wanted to address mental health issues in schools. Ms. Hardcastle said some parents had opposed the bill, raising concerns that students could take mental health days by pretending to be sick. But other parents cited a real need.
The parents of Chloe Wilson, who died by suicide in 2018, told The Associated Press that their daughter, who had faced bullying after coming out as bisexual, had pretended to be sick in order to stay home from school. “Because she lied to get her absences excused, we didn’t get to have those mental health conversations that could have saved her life,” her mother, Roxanne Wilson, said in a public report. Jennifer Rothman, senior manager for youth and young adult initiatives for National Alliance on Mental Illness told Fox News 12 Oregon (July 23, 2019) that the new laws are “a huge win, especially for individuals and families that are affected by mental health conditions.” Debbie Plotnik, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America, added the point that implementing the idea in schools was important step in challenging the way society approaches mental health issues.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, youth suicides are currently the highest on record in the United States. In 2017, suicide claimed the lives of 5,016 males and 1,225 females between 15 and 24 in the U.S., (Miron, Yu, Wilf-Miron & Kohane, 2019) a devastating indication that the nation isn’t doing enough to identify and address mental illness in its young people. And while suicide numbers account for deaths, nearly nine percent of youths in grades nine through 12 attempted suicide in the past year, according to the CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey. The situation is particularly bleak in Oregon, where the Oregon Health Authority (OHA, 2018) reports that youth suicide rates are higher than the national average. It is for this reason that the OHA’s Health Systems Division and Public Health Division partnered with subject matter experts in 2015 to create the Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan for 2016 – 2020.
Schools Add Holistic Health Programs Many states are now requiring mental health education in schools by incorporating holistic health programs as part of their curriculum.
While most states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex – two states are going further. New York’s law enacted in 2018 adds mental health instruction to the list in kindergarten through 12th grade, while Virginia requires it in ninth and 10th grades. Meanwhile, over the last decade, cities and states nationwide have been adopting a variety of initiatives to address the rising need for mental health care in schools. Many states also increased funding for school counseling and added psychologists to their health staffs but until 2018, mandated mental health education had not been part of the trend. Preliminary findings were released in April 2019 from a University of Berkley study that found anxiety disorder among 18 – 26 year-old students has doubled from 10% to 20% since 2008. Stress and anxiety have become a “new epidemic” on college campuses and heightened national awareness is needed (Scheffler, 2019).
According to mental health surveys, students are more anxious than ever with 70% of students admitting their anxiety and depression are significant problems they face daily.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than half of lifetime mental illnesses begin before age 14. Yet the average person waits 10 years after the first symptoms occur before getting treatment. By educating children of all ages about mental health, Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America, a nonprofit that advocates for better mental health care, said the hope is that they will learn how to recognize early symptoms in themselves and their friends and seek help before a crisis develops (Vestal, 2018). “The idea of teaching young people about mental health is not a new one. The mental hygiene movement of the early 1900s introduced society to the concept that mental wellness could be just as important as physical wellness. In 1928, a nationwide group of superintendents recommended that mental hygiene be included in the teaching of health education, but it was not” (Bump, 2018) Today, the focus is on holistic health, which is designed to support students’ personal growth and development by looking at the whole person instead of focusing solely on a specific physical health or emotional issue. Holistic health encourages people to accept responsibility for their wellbeing by learning to make healthy choices.
- Your School’s Health & Wellness Center
- Healing Place Energy School Student Page: www.healingplaceenergyschool.com/colleges. Mindful coursework for college and high school students to manage stress, anxiety and beat depression
- Healing Place YouTube Page: www.Youtube.com/ReflexologyHealing. Self-care and self-help courses designed for anyone who is proactive with their health care and wants to build a wellness library.