Dear school systems,
Why have I never been tested for mental illness in school? From kindergarten to eighth grade, I was called down every single year to have seeing and hearing screenings. It was so important to you that every student took part in it, and you even had a second day of screening for the students who were absent. So why are physical problems taken seriously, and mental ones not even spoken of? The known secret is school is causing an epidemic of mental health problems. One in five students aged 13 to 18 experience a mental illness. However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. Less than half of these teenagers who experience mental illness issues will get the help they need, but you still turn a blind eye to the situation. When is enough enough? If proven facts and statistics won’t persuade you to make a change for the better, what will? An increase in suicide rates? That’s already happened. Here’s a story for you. I’m Mia, I’m sixteen years old, and I’m an ‘average’ student. I’m a captain of the school dance team, and I dance about 15 hours a week outside of school as well. You see me as just another test taker, but I’m so much more than that. I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, but it took years to realize that. I grew up thinking that the pain I was feeling was normal. How could I have known better? No one taught me about mental illnesses until a three day unit in health class freshman year. The problem is the insane amount of stress in students is being pushed aside. To get back on the focus of my personal experience, I dropped an AP class this year. I know dropping a class isn’t the best thing to do, but a lot of discussing with my mom helped open my eyes to see that I need to put mental health over anything else. On the contrary, it was clear others did not agree. It took me two weeks to get out of the class because despite my mother and I talking to three different teachers and staff about how my overall mental health is worsening from this class, we were told we can’t. After I opened up and shared how this is taking a toll on my happiness, straight to my face I was told that me switching to regular is only gonna make the school look bad. This should not be the normal. How many more teenagers are like me? So many students think their anxious thoughts are just a normal part of life, but they aren’t. Anxiety is a storm. It is not just a feeling of worry before a test, it is a constant battle between harmful thoughts that don’t go away. It affects life dramatically, and testing for mental illness in schools is just the start of a solution. Along with just students struggling undiagnosed, I believe testing might help decrease the rate of school shootings in America. Although that is a major statement, American Federation of Teachers proves that all school shooters in the past have had at least one mental illness. If we were tested, that one kid might be able to get the help he needs before lives are taken. One day of screening can save a lifetime of living. The flag flies in the middle more than it does the top. It’s time to break the silence, and that should start with schools. The lives of thousands are your responsibly. It’s time to take action.