Young people need mental health resources that are free, accessible, and inclusive. The way we manage our mental health shapes our behavior, grades, decision-making, and well-being. I feel sad and angry for my generation as we struggle with the impact of COVID, rising school shootings, and academic pressure. We need more youth-centered support and mental health resources.
Mental and emotional health support is critical as mass shootings become more common. Each time we watch another news report detailing a new school shooting my friends and I feel angrier and more lost. As of November 2022, there have been 607 mass shootings across the country, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Survivors of mass shootings commonly experience major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, substance use disorders, phobias and other issues, according to the Scientific American. Even when students aren’t impacted directly, we can be deeply affected by these events, experiencing collective trauma, anxiety and depression as a result. Perpetrators oftentimes struggle with their own mental health. This is a wake-up call to ensure there are accessible mental health resources for young people.
Youth-centered mental health resources are not only helpful in preventing and managing violence in school, but make life better overall. Students who receive social-emotional and mental health support are more successful academically and personally, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Mental health is a key component in students’ healthy development. However, many adolescents have undiagnosed mental disorders and 70% of students struggling with mental illness do not receive support, according to Stagman and Cooper. Some young people might not pay bills, or provide for a household, but we are impacted by current events and many other underlying issues, and without a parent or a guardian, we have limited access to support.
A great example of youth-centered support is the selfsea app. I've noticed improvements in my own mental health after downloading selfsea. It makes mental health, sexual health, and being unapologetically you okay. It is helping me bring up mental health conversations in my family, and to give advice to others. Young people need more resources like this. We should have access to mental health education in school, free therapists and psychiatrists, workshops, hotlines, etc. In this uncertain climate young people should have a say in how we protect and care for our mental health.
M’akayla Boney (she/her) is a senior in high school from Virginia. She is a member of the Peer Health Exchange 2021-2022 Youth Design Group.