Normalizing Mental Health Discussion in Schools

Chattanooga, Tenn – Students all across the country struggle with mental health issues on an everyday basis. I believe that there should be programs and organizations in schools that inform students and their families on how to recognize when someone is struggling with depression.

Teenage girl who is overwhelmed with school.

            Sunny Medley, a 21 year old service member in the United States Military, said, “I believe that a lot of people deal with mental illness, but they are unaware of what it is they’re feeling.”

            My younger sister, Moriyah Wimbley, has struggled off and on for the last four years with depression. Her first depressive episode was her sophomore year of high school, after a terrible falling out with one of her best friends. As she sat in her bedroom floor struggling to process through the mix of emotions she was feeling, the temptation to end her life crossed her mind.

            I was away at school struggling to get the hang of college when I received a phone call from my mom demanding that I talk to my sister and try to calm her down. In that moment I did not know the severity of the situation, but from the panic I heard in my mom’s voice I knew it wasn’t good.

            My mom handed my sister the phone, and my heart instantly felt like it was ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t understand a word Moriyah was saying because she was sobbing uncontrollably. I heard a series of “I feel so alone” and “I don’t want to be here anymore”, and I realized that even though I knew she was far from alone, in that moment she needed reassurance. I softly said, “You will always have me and mom in your corner, you can talk me about anything, you know that, right?”

            After getting off the phone with her that night I couldn’t help but sit and reflect on how things had gotten to that point without me or my mom noticing. I realized that I truly did not even understand what depression was and how it can alter your physical, emotional, and mental being.

            According to an article published in The Tennessean, declining academic performance, shift in social interaction, and emotional physical changes are all signs of depressions in adolescents.

            “When I first started experiencing depression I couldn’t really explain what I was feeling, but I started to notice a lack of interest in all the things I love. I actually stopped going to softball practice which forfeited my spot on the team,” Moryiah said.

            In 2014, The National Comorbidity Survey found that there was an increase in major depressive episodes in adolescents between 2005 and 2014, from 9% to 11%. 

            In the state of Tennessee suicide is the 9th leading cause of death, with a suicide rate that exceeds the national rate of 14.5%.

A graph from Tennessee’s 2017 status report showing the rate of suicide over the past 5 years.

            These statistics are extremely alarming because it seems that there is nothing being done to lower these numbers. Students spend the majority of their time in school, so it would be fitting to have resources available at school to inform students on how to deal with mental health.

            If there had been organizations or programs set in place at my sister’s high school, we as a family could have recognized her depressive behavior and sought out counseling.

            21-year-old Alexis Hodge said, “Most people feel like they are alone with their battle with mental illness, so it would be great to have support groups in schools for people with the same struggles.”

About Tierra Webb

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