Post designer and editor Christy Zigweid
To Whom It May Concern:
Why is it that when there is a death by disease or accident, there is awareness raised throughout the community but when there is an intentional death, there is silence? Recently, as we are aware, there has been an increase in the number of suicides at high schools throughout Westchester County, New York. Legally, toying with the word “suicide” is dangerous, so instead it seems as if we have chosen not to address it at all in hopes to avoid conflict. Maybe people also believe that by not talking about it, the pain will go away since we aren’t having the thought in the front of our minds constantly. All of these suspicions are completely wrong. Growing up, people want to hide factors such as mental health conditions to young kids and teenagers because it can potentially worry them or maybe thinking that since of the age, the child won’t be able to process this thought well. In a high school, it is completely understood that all of these factors may come into play but it is not understood that there are other things that the administration can do to support the cause and raise awareness but they are not. It is never okay to silence an incident like this and pretend like nothing happened as we all go about our daily lives.
We are here to end the silence. If you think about it from the point of view of a family member or close friend, it is heartbreaking to lose someone who held a fraction of your heart. It makes it even worse that many schools are doing nothing to try to relieve the pain in any sort of way. The guidance counselors and psychologists say that they are around 24/7 for us students to go to and talk about how we are feeling, but what does it really say about the school when, the next day, the death is mentioned only once and seemed like an obligatory address, not even enough to commemorate the loss we have all just suffered.
As attending students of a school that has lost students to suicide, we understand the pros and cons and legal issues involved with this situation but it is not in any way acceptable that this event passes without any acknowledgement except the day it happened. We know that for the sake of this students parents and their security, they may not want an assembly showcasing the tragedy, and we are not asking for an assembly or anything of that nature to be addressing that directly. What we are asking is that we show some love and acknowledgement all around the school and to have an assembly to honor people with mental health conditions, to show that everybody is cherished and remembered in different ways and to lastly show that there are ways to help and potentially prevent extreme measures having to be taken. After all, our school motto is “Acknowledge, Respect, and Unite,” so we need to maintain our stance on that saying, especially during a hardship like this.
Every individual handles grieving differently, but the worst way to handle it, is for the feelings, whatever they may be, to stay festering inside of one's mind. It is prominent that many students are upset at not only this unfortunate event, but that the school’s lack of attention to it (personally speaking). The silence needs to be ended, and if the school cannot talk about mental health or mental illness in a mature and sensitive way to the students, a few of us are willing to go beyond our high school and onto a national organization which we have already reached out to.
The goal is to help raise awareness and make sure people know that traumatic events like this can be prevented. There are always people that will listen, even if it is uncomfortable to talk about mental health conditions.
Growing up in a family that has had/have a couple of people with mental health issues, it was hidden from me all of my life until recently I had to do my own digging to help the facts become uncovered. It is obvious that my family did not want to talk to/ open up to me nor each other about the serious issues going on and I have had enough of that at home and I will not stand for it at school either. There is nothing to hide from people about a chemical imbalance of the brain which is uncontrollable. The serious issue that we face in our society is that mental health conditions are more often than not, labeled as a flaw or problem, when in fact it is quite the opposite. By being silent we are feeding into the stigma that a mental illness is a problem or something to fear, when in reality the statistics show that someone living with a mental health condition is much more likely to be a victim of circumstances.
Talking about this issue to students and young adults is very touchy but there are ways to properly go about it. The road to recovery or any healing process is something that people need support with and which is why our school needs to take this almost as a wake-up call and educate people on mental health disorders and the facts of the matter that go along with it. Not all students may feel this way, but I am speaking on behalf of the students who are upset by the recent events.
Once again, we are not asking that the school addresses the recent death, we are just hoping to raise awareness and help the healing process for friends and family because it is contemptuous for a life to be lost and make it seem like nothing happened. It is not natural for people to recover from such a traumatic experience at such a young age quickly or quietly. This calls for a great need of support in this community and it seems to be that a lot of people are handling this in the wrong way. Hopefully there is a solution that can be negotiated to benefit both sides of the spectrum. Thank you.
A Concerned High School Student
The author of this letter has chosen to remain anonymous. Conquer Worry obtained permission to print before posting the letter.
Article by Richard Morley
Edited by Maureene Danielle
Blog post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by laterjay via Pixabay CC
Photo made using @WordSwagApp
I know I have not posted recently – but I’ll give myself a bit of a break because we had a new arrival – the birth of our (second) son Carter. So it seemed apt to start writing again following this post from The Duchess of Cambridge about the mental health of young children.
I definitely won’t claim to have had a bad or traumatic childhood – I am lucky to have grown up with two loving parents.
Thinking of the future, I would like to make sure that I prioritize the mental health of my sons more than I prioritized my own. I want to make sure they are supported, listened to (without me worrying that I’m not doing enough as a parent) and encouraged to talk about their feelings. I want them to be equipped to deal with the things that life has to throw at them, because I’m already learning that as parents we can’t always change what happens to our children in life (as much as we might want to). Most importantly I want them to be able to be there for each other.
Our children will deal with more pressure and stress than we ever thought possible as children. Social media and our now ‘always connected’ environment through mobile devices simply didn’t exist when we were growing up – but now it’s a part of normal life.
A life that as parents we won’t understand – to put it into context; I didn’t have a mobile phone until I was 17 (and I think I was an early adopter) I know children as young as 11 who have iPhones – and its estimated that smartphones are now in the hands of up to 80% of secondary school children. We are with our children in the evenings, at the weekends, when we do things as a family – but they are often on their own when they are using their smartphones, in the digital world.
How do we start to reduce the stigma around mental health issues? Talking about our own mental health and feelings (appropriately of course) as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, guardians, the list goes on; has to be the best example to set – to create an environment where our children can be open, no matter what the problem – by simply making it a normal part of family life
We’ve got to get started, if this survey by the DfE on twitter is anything to by…
So to steal the hashtags from two brilliant campaigns around mental health it’s #timetotalk because #youngmindsmatter
About the Author
Richard Morley is an advocate for mental illness. You can find out more by visiting: http://worrymuch.co.uk/about/
You can also find Richard on Twitter
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