According to the American Psychological Association, 50% of mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. As many of these concerns arise throughout a student’s school years and because children spend much of their time at school, it makes sense that the importance of mental health education should be at the forefront of curriculum.
Despite numerous mental health challenges continuing to rise, where mental illnesses are among the most common health concerns within the United States, the stigma associated has not decreased, leading to further social isolation and negative outcomes.
Black, LatinX, and Asian youths carry a disproportionate weight of this burden, where they face increased social inequities contributing to mental health concerns and lower access to services compared to European-American counterparts.
The most heartbreaking outcome of unchecked mental health concerns is suicidality, whereby suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for ages 15-25 and the tenth most common cause of death in the United States for all age groups. The rates of death by suicide have increased over 150% in the last decade, where this increase can be seen in children as young as 8 years old.
- 50% of mental illnesses begin by the age of 14
- 75% of mental illnesses begin by the age of 24
- Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 15-25
The statistics are grim and they clearly indicate that this is a crisis that requires our immediate, thoughtful attention. Numerous factors have been attributed to this epidemic ー including increased technology and the role of social media, as well as systemic injustices such as poverty, racism, and police violence ー as such there is not a one-stop solution.
What we do know about mental wellness is that it is truly a matter of individual, community, and social wellbeing.
As this is the case, where our immediate environment and relationships can be the most harmful or protective factors contributing to our mental health, it is clear that a cultural shift must take place, prioritizing cooperation and consideration of one another.
Through the World Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (WAIE), our students and their families have access to individualized counseling. These formative years are also among the most mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding, where relationship dynamics are being established as well as changed, hormonal and neurochemical shifts are occurring, and youth are navigating their own identities; all while participating in the classroom.
At WAIE, our students are encouraged to engage with their mental wellness counselor at least once every two weeks, opting for more frequent visits as needed, where they will be given space to express their challenges and collaborate on strategies for success going forward.
In order to meaningfully support each of our students, our team of mental wellness professionals and counselors are restricted to a 120 student case-load, compared to the national average of 491-to-1 students to counselors and the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) recommendation of a ratio of 250-to-1.
While providing ample opportunities to work with a mental wellness professional, with an emphasis on culturally responsive care, the topic of mental health will be a prominent one in our health curriculum. Both within and beyond the classroom, mental health and wellbeing takes a top priority at WAIE, where we hope to encourage and inspire tomorrow’s future while providing them with all they need to succeed.