Student Opinion: The United States And Mental Health

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By Alex Hernandez-Zavala

Mental health in the United States is declining among youth.

A recent report by Mental Health America found that mental health among youth is deteriorating. With 9.7 percent of youth having severe major depression, suicidal ideation among adults is also on the rise, while mental health treatment among both youth and adults is unmet.

Mental Health America also found that there are 44,000 suicide-related deaths per year.

This is a topic we can’t skim over anymore. People are struggling and dying day in and day out. Action needs to be taken by Congress to address this deadly cloud looming over our nation’s youth.

Over the past year alone, online schooling has been damaging children’s mental health. According to CNN, “Nearly 25% of parents whose children received virtual instruction or combined instruction reported worsened mental or emotional health in their children, compared to 16% of parents whose children received in-person instruction.”

Though hybrid learning sessions are starting soon, Hybrid Focus Centers recommend creating a healthy workspace and setting healthy habits, like having a set sleeping schedule and promoting a positive tone at home.

These are crucial as there have been many occasions where I wanted to pull my hair out here at home due to the distressing environments I’ve been exposed to. There’ve been so many times where I’ve just wanted to run away to a field where there’s nothing but grass, clouds and silence.

Fortunately, Florida’s legislature is taking the first swing on tackling the overarching mental health challenge.

According to The Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s legislature is taking steps to tackle their mental health issue, as the Department of Financial Services writes, “… a yearly report to the governor’s office and the Legislature detailing the number of consumer complaints it gets about the lack of access to mental health care.” They hope to pass a bill that, “…would use federal grant money to make it easier for veterans to access services through a telephone referral system.”

This is a significant first step toward a manageable solution. Just bringing awareness to the jarring numbers revolving around mental health will bring perspective on what needs to be done on its widespread scale. I would expect the $1.4 trillion spending bill that funds treatment and research programs for people with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders will get bumped up a little if more states follow Florida’s steps.

Change may be coming sooner rather than later. Fox 12 recently reported Oregon students testifying in favor of a bill that pilots mental health screenings in high schools.

This development struck a chord with me. In high school, I knew a few people who struggled with their mental health; some physically harming themselves and cutting their forearms. A couple of friends and I tried to talk with them, get them to open up about what’s going on, but there’s only so much we could’ve done. We even notified the school about the possibility of one of our peers taking their own life. 

Luckily, he didn’t, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if these screenings were available at my school, my friends wouldn’t bear the physical marks of their blatant pain with mental illness. The office trip to save a friend’s life wouldn’t have been necessary since these much-needed resources are available now.

Before these screenings become widespread, and Congress hopefully takes subsequent steps to better the mental health of American citizens, let’s remedy our anxieties by being around the people we love. According to the statement Jannie D’Anniballe made on CPR, “I think when we start to make those connections, that’s how we start to move through.”

Though this past year, and even this past week, has been very hard on all of us, remember that there is help out there. It’s just a matter of reaching out.

800-273-8255 The Suicide Prevention Hotline

Alex Hernandez-Zavala is a first-year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. He was born in the Central Valley and raised in Salinas, California.

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