By Susanna E. Page
In 2015, I found myself leaving the comforts of my parents home, moving to San Francisco, and living a life of my own. For the first time I felt scared. I felt as though I was entering a battle field instead of a heaven I imagined living on my own would be like. In addition to moving to the city, I began school again and took a full load of classes. Somehow I survived and even thrived in the face of all these changes. But some things also went wrong this year. I went off my medications and made some wrong decisions when I knew perfectly well that my environment was not healthy for me at the time.
Reflecting on my experiences, I found myself wondering what could be done to make it easier for a young person trying to get their life back together after they are well enough to leave the comforts of familiarity. The mental health system is built to provide care and treatment to those who need it, but it can also provide someone with a chance to live a life they want to live. A life where a diagnosis does not define a person or their future.
Last year I sat down and wrote my resolutions for 2015. This year, I would like to share my hopes for 2016 and what I think we all should strive for in the area of mental health.
- Offer young adults more opportunities to participate in group and art therapy
Treatment for young adults should include more group and art therapy to help young people gain social skills that will ultimately help them succeed and feel more confident to continue with school and achieve their own personal life. Group therapy allows the individual to see that they are not alone and that there is hope, while art therapy is a creative way for hidden emotions to come out in a safe environment.
- Add mental health curriculum in schools, as early as elementary school
I think early dialogue about mental health related topics in elementary school, incorporating conversations about mental health into certain areas of a child’s curriculum, is really important. Mental health is crucial for everyone’s health and we need to show children that dealing with the ups and downs of life is fine. That mental health disorders are real and getting help should not be traumatic but a step in the right direction so one can live a life they want to live.
- Encourage more youth to speak up
We need to encourage more youth to speak up about their fight with mental illnesses and how they are working to overcome them so that others can be inspired by their success stories.
- Raise awareness about a range of mental illnesses, not just depression
When people talk about mental illness, there’s a tendency to only talk about Depression. But there are other mental illnesses that should also be recognized, such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Why don’t we feel comfortable saying any other mental illness when we refer to a mental health need? We need to make it okay to talk about these illnesses as well.
- Establish mental health trainings in the workplace and schools
We need to create mandatory info sessions about mental health and interventions in workplaces and schools so that there’s better understanding and recognition of these illnesses. Also, creating spaces at work and in school that provide support for those who are already diagnosed or who have been recently diagnosed, as well as their family and friends that care about their recovery.