The theme at Rethink Mental Health Incorporated in November is Youth Mental Health, and who better to advise on the mental health needs of youth, than young people themselves! As such, we interviewed some of our adolescent Mental Health Advocates to hear from the source what needs to be done to support youth mental health and what is being done by youth for advocate for their peers. In this article, our Advocate, Sarah Duffy shares her opinions and actions, including founding a Student Mental Health Alliance at her high school.
Why is mental health awareness, education and advocacy for youth important?
I think that it is extremely important for both youth and adults to continue to advocate for youth mental health awareness. The stigma associated with mental health is prevalent at all ages, but especially as a teenager it’s hard to talk openly about mental health struggles you may be experiencing. The possibility that you may not be supported, told you're just faking mental illness for attention, or simply ignored is daunting. It’s so important to understand that mental illness doesn't discriminate. Anyone can experience mental health struggles regardless of what they have experienced throughout their life.
As a youth Mental Health Advocate, what actions are you doing to promote mental health awareness, education and advocacy for youth?
I am in the process of creating a Student Mental Health Alliance at my school. This alliance would be dedicated to providing mental health education, resources and support for students, and eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness. This would create a safe space for students to talk openly and shamelessly about their mental health struggles and to support one another. There has been a lot of resistance trying to get a faculty sponsor, because teachers don't feel they are equipped to help us. It's frustrating that schools claim to be supportive of youth mental health struggles, but are not actively working to help students. I hope that we are able to get approved soon to provide this additional resources for high school students within my community.
What is one thing you would like to see changed in society that would improve awareness, education and advocacy for youth?
I think if mental health services were universally affordable then society would be far more accepting. This would emphasize that mental health is just as important and real as your physical health. If parents and teachers were taught how to support their children's mental health that would be majorly beneficial to children struggling with depression or anxiety.