Causey: We are not OK
As I reflect on my senior year at Eagle Valley High School, I am reminded that we (your kids) in the valley are not OK. We haven’t been OK as you may have noticed. In our small valley, we have lost some of our friends to suicide. There. I said it. Suicide. It happens and we can do better.
This is a letter to my community and to my friends. Sometimes it is hard to reach out and ask for help for fear of being judged. And so you remain quiet and you suffer alone. And to your friends, we don’t notice. We are not aware.
Maybe it is because you are always the one with the biggest smile, the best laugh. You hide it so well. We didn’t realize that it is you that we need to check on. It is you we need to listen to. Everyone struggles with mental health at least once in their life and we kids have been feeling lost. Being a middle schooler or a high schooler isn’t easy.
My family has always told me that if you have a complaint about a system, don’t just complain, come up with an idea to fix it. We need to think about mental health and our youth differently. Changing how we look at mental health in this valley won’t be easy. But, there are things we can do and it starts in our schools.
I think we need to incorporate mental health education into our curriculum. It needs to be well known and the school must be an easier place to ask for help. Anonymous help. Many times your kids don’t want to talk about substance abuse, addiction, or depression because they are afraid that if they talk about those things or the way they are spiraling, they will get in trouble.
Support Local Journalism
Other times, we haven’t been able to eliminate the stigma of mental health. How do we do this? We start in our schools. And yes, I mean middle school.
We train kids to notice others. We teach mental health in a yearly curriculum. We have a safe place to talk. We have a safe place to report. We plaster SpeakUp ReachOut across the school halls.
But this is only a start. We have to look at mental health differently in all aspects of our society. Much of the way we do things needs to be scrapped. I am 18 years old and I know four people that have passed away from suicide. This is not OK.
And this is where you come in. I want to make this change but I am just one person. I need your help. My freshman health class talked about mental health for one unit. One unit. This is not good enough. One person dies every 11 minutes from suicide in the United States alone. In this valley, I know we have had two attempts in the last three months. This should not occur. Doing something to create change isn’t easy, since it is not easy to create a new dynamic, but we need to make this change.
And this part is to you, my friends. Kids I know. Kids I don’t know. It is hard to ask anyone to talk about mental health. So, I will tell you how I feel and that may or may not spark your interest in change.
Personally, I struggled with depression for a long time. I never wanted to reach out. I thought I was all alone and no one noticed. My mom was the one person to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That doesn’t mean it went away right away or it was an easy road. I did it because I watched her hurt watching me struggle. I didn’t want to see her upset. If you are struggling with depression, just know that there is someone out there who will listen. You just have to find your person.
Maybe it’s a parent. Maybe it’s your best friend. Maybe it’s a teacher. Maybe it’s your sister or your brother. And to those who we confide in — we need to help you know how to respond. What to do. And we need to have really easy access to this information.
If you want to help and you have something to say or an idea, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share ideas to circulate or just to talk. You choose.