Minds Matter: We need more awareness about mental health services in schools

Teens in Los Angeles — and everywhere — experience mental health issues, and schools are not doing much to deal with them. I believe that the lack of mental health information contributes to terrible outcomes like school shootings and teen suicides.

High school administrations pay extra attention to the safety of students and their physical health. As more teens experience suicidal thoughts, depression or anxiety, the need for awareness, resources and assistance in high schools should be a top priority, especially at Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy.

Mental health issues have risen significantly among teens over the last decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the third leading cause of teen deaths was suicide in 2017. The most common mental disorders among teenagers are anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, approximately half of all students age 14 years or older with a mental illness drop out of school, according to the teen mental health treatment center Paradigm Malibu‘s website.

The resources provided to the school, according to Brenda Cervantes, a counselor at Hilda Solis Learning Academy, are referrals to two agencies that specialize in mental health, which are Hillsides Family Services and Alma Family Services. Cervantes also said that an LAUSD psychologist named Jose Llamas comes to Hilda Solis twice a week.

In an extreme situation, where a student is really struggling with their mental health, the Mental Health Evaluation Team will get involved. If it is something minor — for example, if a student is crying but is not a danger to themselves or others — then Cervantes will care for that student.

“I feel alone sometimes, but I don’t really know who to turn to,” said Hilda Solis student Brianna Cardenas, 17. “There should be more information because some people need help.”

A survey of Hilda Solis students found 50% were unaware of mental health services, and 21% felt like their needs were not being met.

“We need a psychologist that’s here more times a week,” said Hilda Solis student Alyssa Buenrostro, 17.

Some students do not know who to turn to because many are uninformed and that leads to not acquiring needed care. Even though there are some resources in school, it is not something that is talked about openly, which is where the lack of awareness comes into place. In order for students to feel better, there should be programs and assemblies so that teens know help is obtainable.

“I don’t know the days the psychologist is here and my friends and I don’t really talk about that,” Karla Corrilo, 14, another student at Hilda Solis, said.

A report by the World Health Organization mentioned how not addressing adolescent mental health conditions can extend to adulthood, further impairing both, “physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.”

The significance of awareness and addressing such mental health problems can be beneficial because it encourages students to feel worthy.

Raising awareness will not only help students gain information but also create a healthier understanding of mental health, and allow students to feel as if their mental health problems are valid. Therefore, a change has to come in which every student can seek needed help and know more about what resources are available to them.

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