(Image courtesy of Zenopia Aghajanian)
William Howard Taft Charter High School

Message to my next president: Fund mental health services to ensure my generation’s future

Dear future president,

There is more than just one pandemic taking its toll on this nation. For too long, children and teens just like me have been silently suffering from mental illness. Entering high school, I found droves of students who felt like they had been abandoned by their school and communities.

I may have been blessed with access to mental health services, but what about the other 50% of adolescents with mental health issues who are not?

There are so many people who are unable to afford care, or who come from cultural backgrounds that do not believe someone can be sick on the inside.

I am tired of watching my classmates waste away from untreated eating disorders. I am tired of the hopeless feeling that engulfs me when my friends gradually turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with their depression. I am tired of the realization that I can do nothing to stop them. 

In 2010, it was found that 1 in 5 teenagers in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder. Then, in 2013, the CDC uncovered 8% of teenagers grades 9-12 had attempted suicide one or more times in the course of a year.

These numbers are not exaggerated. We are talking about the lives of our loved ones. Our friends. Our children. Enough is enough.

Teenagers across the nation are crying out for help, but are being silenced or ignored. We need a President who will listen to our pleas, not try to simplify or minimize them. Suicide hotlines on student I.D.’s are lovely, but we need more than that.

There are so many steps to take, but first, we need significant federal funding for mental health services, especially within our nation’s public school system. Then, we need to see legislation that goes beyond another empty promise on a formal document. We need to see change.

My generation is supposed to be the future of the United States. Ensure that we can live to become that.

Sincerely,

Zenopia Aghajanian

Taft Charter High School

Los Angeles, Calif.