This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Our understanding of the world around us is influenced by many factors. But as we develop mentally in our early years, arguably the most significant and impactful influence is school. It is at school that we are expected to learn as much as we can to prepare us for the “real world”. One fact of the “real world” in the United States is this: mental illness in youth is growing rapidly, and our generation is at risk earlier and earlier. As the statistics shift and the numbers grow, it is the responsibility of schools to introduce and teach us about mental health and mental illness.
The problem is, our schools are not doing enough to teach us about mental illness, and in some cases, they aren’t doing anything. Not only are they not teaching their students about mental illness and mental health, but the United States education system also does not provide adequate mental health services. For a lot of students, school is where they spend the most time, so it is where help should be most accessible. In the 2014-2015 school year, the ratio of student per school psychologist was approximately 1 to 1,381. The recommended maximum ratio by the National Association of School Psychologists is 1,000 students per psychologist. In less extreme and more beneficial circumstances, the goal is 500-700 students per psychologist. With inadequate education and services regarding mental health for youth in schools, it is apparent that schools are not doing enough.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
I am certain this is a real and worthwhile problem to invest in because within my own school I have found that the only time we learn about mental health is as a very small unit during health class freshman year and in yearly suicide prevention workshops. And in these discussions, we address it as an outside problem. I’ve seen this have a negative effect on how students discuss mental illnesses and how they address others with mental illnesses. Mental illness has become so taboo of a subject that many who live with it have difficulty getting necessary help. But the problem is not just getting help, but getting respect. With such little productive and meaningful discussions on mental illness, there is a lack of empathy for people who live with mental illnesses. This causes problematic and uninformed stereotypes and prejudices against about people with mental illness.
Not only do I think it is important that we discuss mental illness but mental health. Middle and high school years are stressful for everyone, and I think that schools could do a better job of teaching us how to cope with that stress and take care of our mental health.
Of course, this is not just an issue at my school, or in my city. Mental illness affects students all over the country, and even around the world. Leaving children and youth with mental illnesses uncared for and untreated has large consequences. It has a direct correlation with higher dropout rates, homelessness rates, and incarceration rates.
LARGE STEPS TO BE TAKEN
Action steps that need to be taken to improve are
- More psychologists on school campus, so that there is an adequate supply of services for those who need/want help with mental health and mental illness
- More teacher training about mental illness and mental health so that they know how to best support students with mental illness, and so they are better equipped with knowledge that will ensure they are addressing their students with empathy
- More mental health and mental illness education in the years leading up to and well before high school graduation, so that students have a better understanding of mental illness, are more likely to have empathy for people who live with mental illness, and have the skills to cope with stress and care for the mental wellbeing
WHAT I CAN DO
While I wish could solve this issue immediately by taking all the aforementioned action steps, that is definitely not feasible or realistic. Instead, I focused on what I felt I was the most passionate about, and what I could do about it at my community level. I was most interested in the incorporation of mental illness and mental health education in school curriculums. To address this, I curated two short units – both very broad – one on mental health and on mental illness. I recognize that this is not perfect, and that it does not have every detail, but it is a crash course that touches on topics very broadly. I also recognize that teachers are not able to insert entire curriculums into their school year, so I have added tips on specific content that can be incorporated into certain subjects or classes. This resource is not only for teachers, I believe it is helpful for anyone. So I’m hoping that you…
LEARN IT, THEN TEACH IT!
After going through it, please pass on the link! Also, tell me whether or not it was helpful, and how I can improve it in the comment section below or through this google form –> https://goo.gl/forms/iIXRavgNlaeQ9Bep1. Thank you.
Link to the Units:
Although the units are presented through a google slides presentation, they are not meant to be taught through this slideshow. Instead, I give a very basic outline for subject matter to cover, and activites to go through in a very condensed powerpoint, and I used this way of presenting the information for organization purposes. That’s why it has so many words on every page.
Thank you for visiting my website! Please leave comments on what you think!
Here’s a list of the sources I used…
- “Children’s Mental Health Matters – Here’s Why.” National Education Association, 4 May 2015, http://healthyfutures.nea.org/childrens-mental-health-matters-heres-why/
- Goral, Tim. “New York State Requires Mental Health Education.” District Administration, 21 December 2017, https://www.districtadministration.com/article/new-york-state-requires-mental-health-education
- Mahnken, Kevin. “The Hidden Mental Health Crisis in America’s Schools: Millions of Kids Not Reveiving Services They Need.” The 74, 7 November 2017, https://www.the74million.org/the-hidden-mental-health-crisis-in-americas-schools-millions-of-kids-not-receiving-services-they-need/
- “Mental Health Facts Children & Teens.” NAMI, n.d. https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/Children-MH-Facts-NAMI.pdf
- “Research Summaries: Shortages in School Psychology: Challenges to Meeting the Growing Needs of U.S. Students and Schools.” National Association of School Psychologists, 2017, file:///C:/Users/Hanan%20Sherka/Downloads/School_Psychology_Shortage_2017.pdf
- “We Should Be Talking About Mental Health at School.” YouTube, uploaded by Time to Change, 2 Dec 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wziaKWe9oZ4