Unmet youth mental health needs both in and out of schools is not a new phenomenon. Much like an iceberg, the actual scope of the need is often mistaken as being small and easily managed yet the real problem, one that isn’t often seen, lies below the surface. The fact is, for the past 25 years we have seen the impacts of unrecognized and unaddressed youth mental health needs throughout the United States.
The Tip of the Iceberg
There are certain tragedies that tend to draw our focus and the attention of news outlets and justifiably so however things seem to quickly return to “normal”. The tip of the iceberg is melted away while what is below the surface once again becomes quickly forgotten.
Over the past decade, we have started to see a shift in our understanding and response to youth mental health needs. Prior to the pandemic and in response to a problem that simply couldn’t be ignored any longer, strides were made to become better at acknowledging and responding to the needs that students have both in and out of school. The stigma which has stained the practice of mental health and created hesitation for available supports to be utilized was beginning to be addressed.
The COVID 19 pandemic created a worldwide response that no one could have imagined.
In an effort to ensure public safety, schools and businesses were shut down, the way we shopped and worked swiftly changed, and by and large the world hunkered down and in the process we all became isolated. Days, then weeks, then months. What about our mental selves? After all, our mental health is just as important as our physical health, right?
News outlets for the past week have run story after story reminding us that mental health supports are needed now more than ever. The iceberg continues to grow and we must begin to dive below the surface in order to address what is impacting families and communities across the country. Teachers, coaches, and parents (along with any other adult who has regular contact and communication with youth) need to have the tools to not just recognize when a student may be struggling with unmet mental health needs, but should also know how to respond in the moment to that young person as well as how to refer the individual to someone that can help.
Recognize. Respond. Refer.
These 3 steps create hope. These 3 steps provide support. These 3 steps save lives.
At E-Therapy, we recognize the importance of putting the right tools and resources in front of those who are in positions of influence and impact. That is why we are passionate about helping those who so tirelessly help others day after day. Teachers have incredibly important and incredibly challenging jobs yet they possess great opportunities to recognize youth who may be struggling. Is it their responsibility to single handedly “fix” the mental health epidemic? No, it is not.
A comprehensive, community effort is needed.
That said, do teachers have an opportunity that other adults don’t have? Yes they do. Knowing this, it is imperative for us to support teachers not just in the day to day work that they do but in helping to support the mental health that students across the country are struggling under the weight of. A team effort is needed. We can’t afford to not win this battle for our children’s well-being. It’s time that we all make the decision to dive down below the water’s surface and start chipping away at the cause rather than continuing to react to the symptoms.