Mental health problems have affected some of the world’s most successful people.
That includes Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jim Carrey, Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie, Serena Williams, Frank Sinatra, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, according to a nine-minute slideshow presented at a concert last spring at Topeka West High School.
Photos of those celebrities were shown that day to the accompaniment of a piece of music, “(not) Alone,” written to raise awareness of mental health issues by Arkansas high school band director Randall Standridge.
As the play neared its end, the slides shifted to instead show faculty members from French High School and Topeka West, accompanied by text identifying the mental health challenges each of them faced.
‘People see them in the hallway’
The appearances of those “brave souls” were a signal to students that it’s OK to seek help for mental health issues, said Jennie Watson, director of school and outreach services for Topeka’s Family Service and Guidance Center.
The slides were presented as part of a collaboration with FSGC, for which Watson has worked since May 2005.
The slides let students know that some of the “people they see in the hallway” have received personal help, which will hopefully help lessen any stigma they might feel about seeking mental health care on their own if they need it, she said.
Mental wellbeing ‘an important aspect of health’
Watson was one of the mental health advocates The Capital-Journal reached out to this week to ask their thoughts on World Teen Mental Wellness Day, which is Thursday.
The annual celebration “aims to raise awareness about the mental health issues faced by teens,” according to the website.
“Even for people without mental health problems, mental well-being is an important aspect of health,” says that site. “It refers to overall emotional well-being, the ability to live a full life, and the flexibility to handle life’s changes.”
More:Suicide is a “public health crisis,” say experts. The percentage in Kansas is up 60% in 20 years.
Students mourn classmate at Emporia High
The importance of teen mental wellbeing was particularly highlighted by the death last week of an Emporia High School student.
Hundreds attended a prayer vigil in memory of the student, who was a sophomore. Her death prompted the school to cancel its home basketball games against Washburn Rural High School.
The cause and manner of the student’s death have not been made public. However, upon announcing her death, the school shared phone numbers that people can call or text for mental health support.
Those include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 988.
More:Research shows that nearly two out of five teenagers in Kansas suffer from feelings of depression
‘Our children need much more support’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among youth ages 10 to 24 in the U.S. increased nearly 60% from 2007 to 2018.
Suicide rates then declined in 2019 and 2020 before rising in 2021, the CDC reported.
Teenage girls in the U.S. are increasingly depressed and considering suicide more often than in recent years, with the problems worst among those who identify as LGBQ+, according to a CDC study published Feb. 13.
“High school should be a time for breakthrough work, not trauma,” said Debra Houry, the agency’s chief medical officer and deputy director for program and science. “These data show that our children need a lot more support to cope, to hope and to thrive.”
‘Communication is everything’
If you have teens in your life, take a look at them, said Amy Mullin, vice president of support services for Topeka’s Boys and Girls Clubs.
“Communication is everything,” she said.
A mom of teens herself, Mullins urged parents and other loved ones of teens to keep track of what they do, what they say, and “what they don’t say,” which she says may be even more important.
Know who their friends are, Mullins added.
Here are some resources
Some possible resources for people who have suicidal thoughts or have lost a loved one to suicide include the following:
The group Healing After Loss to Suicide, which maintains a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HEALsTopekaArea.
The Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which maintains a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SNSuicidePreventionCoalition.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
The Crisis Text line, for which users can text “HOME” to 741741 to reach a volunteer crisis counselor 24 hours a day.
Contact Tim Hrenchir at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Importance of Teen Mental Health Highlighted in Topeka, Emporia