By James Novotny
Why do we wait till someone shoots someone else in the streets to question the sanity of that person? Why do we wait till a husband beats his wife to death to ask what we could have done to make a difference? Why do we wait until a child takes their life because of bulling to ask what a school could have done to make a difference?
I was in the lobby of my therapist’s office and let my mind race before our session. Our focus was supposed to be healthy relationship building and issues with self-confidence. As my mind wondered, I began thinking about gym class and how we were made to take two to three years of it in high school as well as every year first grade and up.
Gym wasn’t just about being physically fit for that day, but was also supposed to teach us how to carry a healthy lifestyle into everyday life. Of course very few of us really maintained it past high school, but the knowledge would be with us if we needed it and chose to use it. The schools felt it was important to teach us physical health to be educated and functioning human beings. Then, that got me thinking we didn’t have mental health classes of any kind. About all we had was a school psychiatrist who we could visit or be sent to if something was wrong.
As a post graduate in the real world, I would have to say high school education leaves a lot to be desired. Time spent learning math equations I can’t even remember now and will never use could have been filled teaching reasonable life necessities like taxes, student loans, buying a house. Home economics classes, sex education, teaching techniques and college preparation classes could all use some serious advancement to really aid a soon-to-be graduate in the modern world. But above all else, mental health classes should be a requirement of all students — just like physical education — and should be just as emphasized.
We were not taught stress coping techniques, emotional blockage, mental health problems, relationship building (unless you took relationships/parenting classes), how to cope with loss and so on. I find that very interesting considering the impact that would possibly have on school shootings, teen suicide, and even small things like just not doing your homework because you’re overly stressed, all of which are becoming more and more common in youth. Schools and social media have become a battleground like never before and children and teens are not being given the proper tools to handle what’s being thrown at them, so they turn to drugs, drinking, fighting, suicide and murder.
It is often believed that parents are to teach their children morals and how to respond to threats of mental health. But how can parents teach what they themselves were never taught in school. Even now, adults struggle to understand mental illness issues, as education on them at a college level is just starting to grow. I found time and again my parents unable to help me with school issues because what we were learning was further along then what they themselves had learned. A second area where children are believed to be taught how to deal with issues such as stress, confidence anxiety and so on are religious institutions but not all children are raised in religious families and those of faith are just as susceptible to mental illness conditions as those who are not believers.
Some parents might oppose these sorts of classes since they may not respect how far our knowledge has come in the area of mental health and they may feel this isn’t an area a school should teach students. These are the same defenses raised when schools posed the idea of sex education and a variety of other classes throughout history. However, it is not a school’s job to benefit the parents and make them feel comfortable with the subjects being taught, but to expose the children to knowledge they may not have the opportunity to gain at home. Education is for the student so they can become valuable members of society.
It doesn’t surprise me these classes are not being taught. For some reason mental health is always put on the back burner, which is very unfortunate since it is the underlying issue that carries over into every action made by an individual. Considering we are now looking into mental health issues and taking them seriously — especially in youth — this seems like a very valuable time to introduce the next generation with the knowledge not offered to the previous ones. If physical health is that important that we have to spend that much time on it then why would mental health not be just as important?”
Adults spend so much money, time and energy on therapy and medications to solve internal problems that have been proven time and again to stem from their youth. At this point, their potential spouses, children, jobs and way of life is all being affected by these issues that are near impossible to solve. All of these problems could have been dealt with when they were occurring in youth had these individuals had the proper knowledge to do so at the time. It’s much harder to fix a problem once it’s occurred than it is to stop the problem from occurring to begin with. We know this and yet continue to wait until acts of insanity, murder or suicide occur before questioning out methods then going back to doing things how we always have.
There is so little to lose and so much to gain by introducing mental health programs and classes into the public education system. Not only would this aid the learning progress in school, but would set students up for a lifetime of learning and self-discovery helping shape a post graduate society with better coping techniques, tools and strategies to help grow a sense of community and respect.
James Novotny is a Troy resident