The Journey to Promoting Mental Wellness

By Michel’le Bailey

“Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe and have faith that everything will work out for the best.”

What is the main phrase we hear from our youth that we may have even said when we were their age?

Well, let’s try to understand!

From my standpoint, mental health affects everything. The personal challenges that adolescents deal with are heavy: school, relationships, peer pressure, outside activities, home life. Some even have jobs, and not to mention that their bodies are changing. For an adolescent, that is a lot to juggle and there is stress that comes with wanting to be able to handle everything.

Mental health is broadly seen as an adult condition. On the contrary, it can be serious for any and everyone, including young adults, teens, and children. Rarely do teens and children voice what they are going through. Did you know that half of all disorders start at the age of 14? I have put together a youth’s perspective on mental health to be the voice needed and to shed light on the facts that mental health affects everyone and that if not treated and discussed can lead to concerning health problems.

The lethargy adolescents carry come from various aspects of daily life: school, home and family, friends, and activities outside of school, and mainly just the realization that as they grow up, their life is drastically changing around them.

I want to understand what adolescents are going through, so I conducted a survey and passed it out to both middle and high school students, and also youth members of communities that either had a health clinic near or not near.

My goal was to conduct surveys that were completely confidential that forced students/adolescent members of the community to think about mental health factors in their daily lives and to see if the survey will affect them enough to use or consider using the health center and the services provided.

Although my survey had many questions, I only focused on the overall goal of the survey which was to find out the answer to 2 questions:

If you had access to a health clinic aimed and designed to address the multifaceted needs of children, youth, and families, would you take advantage of its services in terms of yours or someone else’s health needs?

and

If you are suffering from loneliness, social anxiety, thoughts of harm, thoughts of hopelessness, thoughts of not being good enough, not having friends, or not having someone to talk to, would you consider speaking to a qualified mental health specialist who passes no judgement, keeps your discussions confidential, and is always near?

In order to further grasp their attention, I went on to provide a detailed list of the many services some may offer:

The school health clinics offer great services as in physicals, mental health, dental hygiene, sexual health, nutrition and fitness, vision, teen dating violence, depression, behavior problems, academic performance, substance abuse, sexuality or relationships, asthma and diabetes treatment, reproductive health services, abstinence counseling, pregnancy prevention, and STD/HIV testing and treatment Services are provided at no or low cost to clients. No one is refused service for inability to pay.

Click here for the survey data report!

The survey had questions that asked about social life, home life, school life, personal life, and the effects of social media. From my research, it was reported that every single participant is currently experiencing some type of mental health crisis. While some feel that their issue is not a big deal, others wish that they could speak out about their issues without being shot down.

To name a few, some issues included:

  • depression
  • verbal abuse
  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • suicide
  • drugs
  • unsafe sexual lifestyle
  • anxiety

The purpose of this survey and the reason for this choice of subject is personally I struggle with mental illness and as a college student, it is difficult to want to pursue or continue school because of all the stresses of daily life. It made me wonder when I started to feel so down and I realized it started my sophomore (10th grade) year in high school. I felt and still feel so sad, hopeless, not good enough. It is hard as an adult to admit that I am not well when I feel the weight of my family on my shoulders. It is both positive and negative attention that they spring out on me and I feel like I am in a hole with no rope or ladder to climb or pull my way out.

And as I said before, if I, an adult, am feeling this way, and if it started when I was an adolescent, then what can I do now as an adult to prevent it from happening to adolescents who feel like no one understands?

I thought the answer was to tell everyone who partook in my survey and whose results came back that they have some type of mental illness developing to seek counseling. But it was then I realized that that way is all wrong. Especially since at that age, ages 18 and under, adolescents are vulnerable and will mistake everything someone says as “There is something wrong with you, you need to go to a doctor, you’re CRAZY!!” The youth don’t need people to convince them that they are worthy, though some would like to hear it once in a while. The youth also don’t need to hear that they are not broken nor do they need fixing. Dealing with youth can be tricky, which is why sometimes a presence is all that is needed.

The answer is to focus more on informing and teaching adolescents about mental wellness instead of treatment and prevention.

Fun Fact: Did you know that there is a petition that asks the “U.S. Senate: Please DECLARE APRIL Young People Awareness Month.” If you click on to sign, you can help with this petition to bring awareness to young people and to acknowledge their everyday needs.