Everything seemed to be going well for Jason Finuliar. The Filipino-American high school student from Fremont, California had exceptional grades and was president of the debate club. But a year into the pandemic, he began to show symptoms of mental illness, and his family struggled to find the right path forward for Jason.
Socialization is a crucial part of child development, so when, in the midst of the pandemic, students were pulled from schools and forced into a new reality of online learning, it had an outsized impact on their mental health. More than a third of U.S. high school students report that they had poor mental health during this time. Now, K-12 schools in the United States are finding innovative methods to deal with the lingering impact.
It’s a startling statistic: Nearly half of all lifetime mental illness cases in the U.S. begin by age 14, yet 79% of youth needing care don’t receive it. A new approach to youth mental health care in California care hopes to change that startling dynamic. The “allcove” program brings youth voices in order to create a “with, for, and by youth” experience.
“Being black already makes life hard…adding being gay on top [of] that is extremely difficult.” A student quote from a 2018 Human Rights Campaign report highlights the struggles LGBTQ+ youth of color face. Discrimination and mental health conditions are inextricably linked and without people that understand and offer support, LGBTQ+ youth of color are left alone.
Mental health and mental illness can be difficult to discuss, especially for teenagers who are already going through many changes and figuring life out. Social stigma and shame have painted mental health with a negative brush, causing many adolescents to struggle in silence. However, talking about mental health early is critical to developing healthy habits and well-being. Learning to chat about mental health while young equips people with tools they can use to support their mental health throughout their life.
Most mental health challenges begin early on in life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses start by age 14, and 75% by age 24. Knowing this, we have an obligation to ensure young people have the support they need to cope with mental health conditions.
When the campus alert system at the University of California at Los Angeles notified students of a possible shooter this February and directed them to shelter in place, senior Meera Varma found herself surrounded by frightened students. She told the alarmed undergrads hunkered down in the dorm it was okay to be scared — a technique she’d learned in a mental health training.