When I was younger, I always wondered why people struggle with mental health despite there being so many available resources. I’m growing up in a time where people are pretty open. They’ll talk to others about a mental illness they have struggled with, casually mention seeing a therapist, or say they had a mental breakdown (a Menty B, as my math teacher likes to call them). However, I was shocked to learn that it isn’t easy to get treatment: 20% of teenagers have had or will have a serious mental illness, and usually, they don’t know how to ask for help. In addition, parents heavily influence the beliefs and feelings of their children. Stigmas around mental health, like you’re just “dramatic” or “lazy,” prevent teens from receiving the services they need to deal with mental illnesses. Therefore, parents should educate themselves on mental health using resources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Even social media platforms are a good way of being educated. Parents should be a person their child relies on, not avoids. In order to do that, they need the knowledge and empathy they would gain by being well-informed on the topic of mental health.

Mental health stigmas make it difficult for a teen to recover from depression or anxiety. This causes an abundance of unhappiness and a decrease in productivity. It makes it harder for teens to succeed when faced with unsupportive parents. According to the DCist, “Mental health issues in young people are often overlooked… 41% of youth experiencing major depression do not receive the mental services they need”(Robinson). DC is actually doing better than other states; the national average is 61%. That is too high of a number. Depression and anxiety can cause family conflicts, drug abuse problems, missed school, and so much more. You don’t want to be the reason a teen chooses to silently endure pain instead of reaching out. If you think this problem has nothing to do with you, you’re wrong. The mental state of teens affects not only them but the entire world too. Everyone always says kids are the future, but what happens when you don’t take care of the future? According to PMC, “poor mental health was estimated to cost the world economy approximately $2·5 trillion per year…and reduced productivity, with a cost projected to rise to $6 trillion by 2030”(Saha). Poor mental health has cost the world trillions, and it’s only expected to get worse. This means that people should encourage parents to stay educated so they can take care of their kids. If you are a parent, you should do your best to be reliable and easy to approach. You don’t have to be your kid’s friend, but you do have a good caretaker.

Being educated is very important if you want to be a part of the solution, especially if you have a kid struggling with mental health. According to an article by Step Up for Mental Health, “Family members are perhaps the most influential people in our lives… We look to them for guidance and reassurance, especially as children; our parents teach us everything they know”(Etcheson). If parents teach you everything you know and they don’t know about mental health, how are you supposed to know what to do? Parents being informed means they can better help their kids. NAMI states, “When taught well, it helps cultivate awareness and empathy. It gives people an understanding of what may be happening inside themselves or friends or family members”(“Community Voices”). This suggests when people are well-versed on the topic of mental health, it benefits them and the people around them. Although parents are very influential, they’re not the only option. Teachers, coaches, and other families can all support teens. Education on mental health makes it so that teens can more easily receive help and be better off in the future. The help could be getting a therapist, joining a support
group, or even just taking a mental health day. Contributing doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture; even little things can improve mental health.

Some people believe that mental health issues don’t matter as much as physical issues. However, what they don’t realize is that mental health issues are just as serious as any physical ailment. The Mayo Clinic states, “Mental illness is a leading cause of disability. Untreated mental illness can cause severe emotional, behavioral and physical health problems”(“Mental Illness”). Untreated mental illnesses can disrupt a person’s daily life. It can affect their ability to learn, physical state, and overall attitude. People have a harder time believing what they can’t see even though it very much exists. Any mental disorder is just as serious as a broken arm, diabetes, or cancer. People empathize with physical illnesses, which is interesting considering you can’t look at someone and tell they have diabetes or cancer, but they still consider it real. Mental illnesses need to be treated with the same importance as physical illnesses.

Considering everything mentioned, mental health is a serious issue that is often overlooked. It not only causes problems for the teens suffering from it, but it also impacts people who are referred to as mentally healthy. By being educated on it, you become a person that is reliable and empathetic. When parents become properly educated, it allows their kids to receive any help they require. Therefore, you should try your best to stay educated and be a dependable person for teens struggling with poor mental health.

Works Cited
“Community Voices: Why We Need More Mental Health Education.” NAMI California, 2020, https://namica.org/blog/community-voices-why-we-need-mental-health-education/. Accessed 26 October 2023.

Etcheson, Serena. “The Importance of Educating Family Members about Mental Health.” Step Up For Mental Health, 8 January 2021, https://www.stepupformental-health.org/the-importance-of-educating-family-members-about-mental-health/. Accessed 26 October 2023.

“Mental illness – Symptoms and causes.” Mayo Clinic, 13 December 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968. Accessed 26 October 2023.

Robinson, Tamia. “Losing The Future By Not Protecting The Present: Young Leaders Seek Better Mental Health Support For DC Youth.” DCist, 27 May 2022, https://dcist.com/story/22/05/27/dc-youth-mental-health-help/. Accessed 26 October 2023.

Saha, Gautam. “Advocacy in mental health – PMC.” NCBI, 3 December 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8793719/. Accessed 26 October 2023.

Written By:

Madison Jackson

Grade 9

DC International PCS