This Blog was created by Guest Blogger Mary Albertoli
It’s okay to talk about our mental health struggles
First, I need to be straight forward. I do not have a method to prevent the high rate of suicide among teenagers and young adults. What I have is twelve years of clinical experience as a master’s level social worker and my own observations. It is important to note that, as a social worker, I had the opportunity to treat this population in both an individual and group setting.
I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone has struggled with emotional and mental health issues at some point in their life. In my practice, however, I observed that young people often felt that they were the only ones among their peers who were suffering, and they felt shame about needing help. Their feelings of shame further exacerbated their feelings of being alone and worsened their mental and emotional struggles, sometimes to the point of crisis.
Dispelling the stigma around experiencing emotional and mental health struggles would provide space for authentic conversations to occur in this population. Authentic conversations would help people realize they are not alone which would further dispel the stigma and allow space for help-seeking behaviors. It’s a vicious cycle that I believe could help many youths avoid reaching that crisis point.
During the filming of the promo for The Shift, one of our participants spoke about being bullied in middle school, having milk cartons thrown at her on a daily basis, and getting to the point where she thought about “popping a bottle of pills and ending her life.” She was lucky because she finally opened up to her family and they supported her getting help. What about the many young people who just do not have this support or who are judging themselves for even having these thoughts and feelings?
Especially given current events, this is a time in which compassion and generosity towards each other regarding mental health is necessary for survival. Another participant in our promo conversation opened up for the first time about feeling suicidal on a daily basis and shared with the group that his pain had become so unbearable that he almost jumped off a bridge. He said he had thought he should be able “to power through his pain” on his own and almost took his life based on this belief. This participant and I have kept in touch since the day that we filmed his interview, and on more than one occasion he’s told me that since he opened up about his struggles with peers in the supportive space that we created for them, his life has changed for the better.
From these experiences, I’ve come to believe that creating a new cycle of conversations can dispel the stigma around mental health so that more teens and young adults can open up and have these important breakthroughs for themselves. This can further help dispel the stigma and can help these young people before they get to a crisis point. That is our goal with The Shift.
There are, of course, other challenges in our healthcare system that increase the likelihood of crises among the youth population. It is imperative to take someone seriously when they talk about harming themselves or others. They must get help immediately. However, many teens and young adults do not receive the help they need for two reasons that are not being effectively addressed: 1) there is a chronic shortage of mental health workers; and 2) the fact that mental health treatment – even with insurance coverage – is often not affordable. These are problems that must be solved if we truly hope to help our young people.
Meanwhile, there are non-profits who are working on the frontlines to bridge the gap, and I want to share the following information from The Shift’s generous partners:
- If you are in emotional distress or experiencing thoughts of harm to yourself or others, help is available 24/7.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) Spanish & English; Deaf & Hard of Hearing TTY 800-799-4889
- Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor
- If you need mental health care but cannot afford it, contact Rise Above The Disorder, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to making mental health care accessible to everyone: YouAreRAD.org
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