High school brings many new stressors — college applications, standardized tests, and new relationships — but many students struggle with more than a stressful exam or an upsetting day.

Mental illnesses affect many students and must be addressed. On June 15, Congress passed the “mental health reform.” Although this bill is a small victory for raising mental health awareness and a step in the right direction, we still need to encourage Americans across the country to start recognizing mental illness as a major problem, including us high school students.

Based on the national statistics and my personal observations in high school, I agree that mental illness is the most common hidden crisis among high school students and is an issue that affects millions of Americans. Despite the small victories on the mental health front, they are met with major challenges.

Not long after the recent mental health reform bill came into effect, “the Graham-Cassidy Bill” was proposed and it would have struck a major blow to mental health. Because of this bill, all health insurance plans could have excluded mental health benefits in all states. Fortunately, Congress failed to pass the bill on Sept. 26, but I hope that this helps the public realize the importance of protecting mental health care.

I have noticed that many high school students endure through some psychological difficulties such as anxiety, eating disorders (overweight or underweight), sleep issues, or light depression because of various academic or social pressures. Some of our peers simply do not know anything about mental health, and as a consequence, are not aware of their difficulties or view them as issues to seek help for.

Researchers state that without proper treatment, these issues can grow and negatively affect their academic accomplishments, social life, and in the worst scenario, lead to suicide attempts.1 Data show over 37 percent of students with a mental illness, ages 14–21, are the highest dropout group of a disability group.2 Therefore, it is very important to raise the awareness of mental illness among high school students to help alleviate and prevent some of the serious ramifications that can arise from inaction.

I believe we, as high school students, have the power to make meaningful change in our community primarily by educating ourselves about mental illnesses.

Based on my volunteer experience at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the San Fernando Valley, along with formal medical resources, I suggested that needy students and families have access to informal resources like NAMI. This is the number one mental illness alliance and is a great resource for those now seeking help in regard to mental illness.

Through my involvement, I found out we have great programs, classes, and workshops for patients and families in need, and most of them are free. For example, NAMI San Fernando Valley family support groups are open throughout different locations including Van Nuys, Northridge, West Hills, Sylmar, and Santa Clarita, and they can provide answers to students and their families who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Becoming a local member might be a better option for more benefits and packages, and I would even suggest becoming a volunteer for this organization like I do to help more students and families.

I am humbled and honored to help support students and their families overcome their challenges and improve their lives through the resources provided by NAMI.

Bryan Denq is a senior at Van Nuys High School.

Citation:

1. American Psychological Association (2017). Children’s Mental Illness. Retrieved October 9, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/pi/families/children-mental-health.aspx

2. U.S. Department of Education. (2014). 35th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2013/parts-b-c/35th-idea-arc.pdf

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