Those of us in the mental health field have known for many years that basic mental health information is often not available to teens, parents and teachers. Why? Because it is not information that is taught to any of us.
Mental health information is viewed in our culture as something we only get on an “as needed basis” — i.e., when someone we know or love becomes critically mentally ill (violent, suicidal, addicted).
Here’s the problem with that archaic manner of getting out critical information to the public: people are suffering needlessly.
Basic nutrition, dental hygiene and exercise information are not withheld from parents and students until they are in pain. Why is information on managing emotions withheld until someone is having a panic attack or is suicidal? Why are we treating every suicide as an unexplained tragedy or every school shooting as some unsolvable psychological puzzle about one lone teenager? There are patterns; there is information that we can have ahead of time. There is no reason for parents and teachers to stand by powerless as we watch our children get more and more anxious and hopeless.
So several agencies, with the help of a grant from the Regional Access Project, made a bold decision. JFS of the Desert, OneFuture Coachella Valley, Safe House of the Desert and Riverside University Health System partnered with Indio High School and Coachella Valley High School to pilot the delivery of basic information on adolescent emotional development, mindfulness techniques, anxiety, depression, safe dating, bullying, substance abuse and suicide in two health academy classrooms in 2018. They were also taught about available careers in mental health.
The program was called Mindfully Resilient and the results were astounding.
Students reported off-the-charts levels of anxiety and gravitated toward mindfulness techniques to calm their emotions. They reported back to teachers that they recognized that they were in unhealthy dating relationships. They learned the difference between disappointment and depression. Some even said they wanted to train to be counselors.
Then we made a second bold decision.
We decided to put the information into editable PowerPoint presentations that could be accessed by anyone and used in any curriculum in any school. These PowerPoints are also available to teens and parents by simply going to this web address: portal.OneFutureCV.org and clicking the Mindfully Resilient button.
We even put guidance and college program information on the portal so that students can map their way to the mental health workforce.
It’s time to make emotional regulation and basic mental health information part of every teenager’s and every parent’s high school experience. To keep depriving our children (and ourselves) of this information is neglectful and results in unnecessary worry and pain.
Spread the word!
Maureen Forman is the Executive Director of JFS of the Desert. Email her at email@example.com.