MN Youth Can’t Succeed without Proper Access to Mental Health Support
By Abigail Catalan
Content Warning: This piece discusses suicidal feelings.
Mental health in the youth community is a very important issue that crosses my mind a lot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health for teens is getting worse; since the pandemic, more than 47% of students report feeling sad or hopeless. While mental health challenges aren’t the most visible barriers to our education, I think they’re the most important issue to address for student success.
A friend attempted suicide this year, and I asked my mom, who had a good relationship with my friend, for help. A social worker from my high school would typically guide my mom in situations like this, but he passed away this past summer. And that was the moment I realized how big of an impact school social workers can have on the lives of students and their families. Unfortunately, that night, we didn’t have him to help us. Instead, my mom had to learn how to manage a mental health situation for the first time on her own.
Going through this situation made me realize we don’t have enough mental health support to keep students healthy and thriving. There is a fundamental lack of accessible information and resources in our lives and in our families’ native languages. And in many cases, situations are complicated by a deep stigma around mental health problems.
Advocating for Mental Health Resources at the Legislature
So what can be done now? In the Legislature, the House is proposing a significant investment in student mental health support. The bill includes funding for 1,100 new school counselors, social workers, psychologists, school nurses, and chemical-dependency counselors across the state, and additional funding for educators who might want to become licensed as school counselors. This is an important step in getting more support for students and families in Minnesota, and it should be a priority this session.
Working Together to Address a Growing Problem
Supporting my friend through mental health crisis has been one of the most intense experiences I have had, and it opened my eyes to a systemic area for supporting youth (and it’s inspired me to become a social worker).
As school leaders consider how to use mental health support—with or without money from the state—it’s very important to consider how we address the stigma around mental health for youth and the need for multilingual staff and translation services. If we minimize mental health as a community, our families can’t access resources like the suicide hotline because of language barriers, it may add to a student’s fear of reaching out for help.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult; unless you’re a trained professional, we’re all missing basic information to help with mental health issues. There’s an opportunity to make sure everyone is better prepared, helping students and families (from all backgrounds) access a simple set of knowledge and tools to support the safety and success of students.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
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