This theme is about the fact that many of us struggle with anxiety, depression, anger, or other things. The truth of the matter is that experiencing racism every day is traumatizing. The truth of the matter is that, because of the systems of oppression in our society, our families are more likely to have incarcerated loved ones, to get evicted or have unstable housing, to live in fear of immigration, or to experience violence from police. All of those things lead to trauma. And sometimes that trauma looks like acting out in class, sometimes it looks like staying home, sometimes it looks like fighting with our peers.
We need help from people who truly care about us, not punishment.
Issues happening now
WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE IN OUR SCHOOLS:
Students’ mental health is not considered a priority by the school system (at the local, state, and federal level)– test scores are considered more important than our well-being
Students are not given the support needed to succeed
Lack of accessible mental health supports, and those that exist are often overworked
Students who are really struggling can end up expelled and put in an “alternative school”- these schools are often highly restrictive and are sometimes privatized, which means there’s less accountability
When students act out, they are punished, instead of someone taking the time to get to know them and dig deeper as to what might be going on
When we talk about mental health, we must also talk about disability. Disability can look like many things; chronic pain, physical impairments, cognitive challenges, and emotional disabilities to name a few. Mental health is part of this world. Being labeled “Special Ed” (which is a harmful, ableist, and oppressive term) can help students gain more resources often held back from disabled students. But it can also hurt because you’re policed more, not taken seriously, and treated like you’re not capable of making decisions about your own needs. Often, Black and Brown students are put into these classes for “behavioral issues” and are not given extra support and care
Learning disabilities go under-reported and are not taken seriously
Recognize that mental health is important and needs to be more of a priority in our schools– school is more than just education
We need Black and Brown mental health counselors and therapists, and multilingual counselors and therapists
If there’s a shortage of Black, Brown, and multilingual therapists and mental health counselors in our community, then we need to create job and college pipelines for youth from our community to become mental health counselors and therapists
More education to help lift the stigma around mental health:
There could be a whole for-credit class on mental health, as part of the health curriculum: What is it? What does it look like? And how to notice warning signs in yourself and others.
Parents and families also need this information and training
Someone has to be actually listening– just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you care. Create ways for students to evaluate mental health professionals. Students should participate in the hiring process too.
Because of stigma, young people sometimes can’t get a parent to sign on for therapy or they don’t want to ask for permission. We need to overcome this obstacle and allow young people to see a therapist even without a parent signature.
Shift resources away from security guards and security cameras and toward mental health and restorative justice staff
Restorative justice- teachers can lead circles every day or every week in class to build trust and safe space
We need a compassionate and caring school environment
A chill room!!! Create a safe space for people struggling in schools. We learned that Waterford High School has a “zen room” - if they can do it, why can’t we?
Older youth(12th grade) mentoring younger youth(9th grade), more mentor/mentee programs within the school