Remove Mental Health Stigma And Open Communication

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Many of our youth worry excessively and are perplexed at how everyone else seems to have it all figured out. Their anxieties could be a result of peer rejection, their parents' divorce, feeling too different, failure at school, how they look to others, or societal issues. 

As a result of their fears and worries, their quality of life suffers and anxieties increase. They may have trouble sleeping at night or experience sleepiness during school. They may even have trouble concentrating, become irritable, and lose interest in their favorite activities.

Let’s remove the stigma around mental health and open the lines of communication.

Children need a safe space to talk and write about how they feel. They need guidance on figuring out why they are feeling the way they do and how to overcome those feelings. It’s important to remember that mental health is comparable to physical health. In the same way, we encourage our children to eat healthy and get exercise to prevent future issues, we need to encourage them to express themselves in a positive way and exercise thinking healthy thoughts.

The arts are an effective way to ensure that children have outlets of expression. From dance to theatre and even creative writing, the arts provide a positive framework for our children’s mental health. We have seen a decrease in schools providing the arts to students and this is an easy solution to make sure our young people are able to access, express, heal and create resilience. Chattanooga is known for our ingenuity and creativity. Let's foster this in our children as well.

Language matters and it’s worth changing our language habits. Every person is more than a label. Negative terms or phrases ostracize children and close the lines of communication. Whether it comes from adults or their peers, words are powerful and can leave lasting impacts.

“You are unbearable/impossible!”

“A ‘B’ is fine, but an ‘A’ is better.”

“Don’t eat that or you’ll get fat.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“You’re so lazy.”

Many problems are made worse by stigmas and negative reinforcement. Only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition received help and less than 50 percent of children 8-15 received mental health services, says Fortune.com. We can do better. Our schools can lead by example by creating safe learning environments and healthy outlets that show children how to navigate through life’s challenges.

Miracle Hurley
Candidate for School Board District 3


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