District needs to do more to address mental health

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In an academic system that becomes more stressful almost by the day, it is no surprise that suicide and mental health issues are becoming more common.

Combine increased academic challenges with the ever-present evil of bullying and social media, it’s no wonder that numbers have doubled since 2008 of teens ages 12-17 who have been hospitalized for an attempt on their life or suicidal thoughts, according to a recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The Center for Disease Control statistcs also show that suicide rates for teens are approaching their highest levels since the mid 1990s.

In the light of these facts and tragedies within our school district, we believe the school district should be doing more to combat mental health issues for its students.

The existing program, a 155-page Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Schools that can be found on the district website, is a step in the right direction. But it has not been implemented in a way beneficial to students and teachers.

The program effectively deals with intervention in a suicidal crisis and the posttension of response to a suicidal death. But it has shortcomings when it comes to prevention.The program should be doing more to proactively prevent suicides, identifying risk factors and triggers in students.

This is not the only step the ditrict has taken to help fight student mental illness. The district also is trying to aid student mental wellness by decreasing graduation requirements.

While this step is well meant there are very obvious flaws in it.

For one, it obviously doesn’t account for stress from bullying or social media. It also ignores that a decrease in requirements allows for schedules to be stuffed with extra AP classes.

What is also troublesome is that to get rid of some requirements the school board may consider making health class an option. Students can now take health online or in summer school instead of during freshman year. There also has been talk of removing it altogether in the future and incorporating the curriculum into PE classes.

This is a mistake as health is one of the only classes where an honest conversation can be had about suicide and mental health. Removing it as a required course allows more students to ignore their mental health, so they can slip through the figurative safety net.

The only way we can effectively prevent suicide and serious mental health issues is to  have an honest and open dialogue. But it is also necessary to have the district be working quickly and efficiently to help their students.

The issue of mental health and suicide cannot be ignored and will not be driven away through inaction.