Inside L-S: What is mental health?

As we begin this series on mental health, it is important to define mental health. Different people have different understandings. In a survey around L-S, some students responded that it has “something to do with how you think,” and many simply responded, “I don’t know.” This variety of responses is emblematic of societal inconsistencies in the definition of mental health. 

Mental health is a person’s condition and it deals with both their emotional and psychological well being as well as their adjustment to society and the demands of life. It is something that has been a topic of a lot of research in the last few decades. Much has been learned, and there have been a lot of breakthroughs in the study of mental health. 

Unfortunately, although we understand a lot more about it, we have yet to put much of what we have learned to medical practice, and the public is generally unaware of the information that has been discovered. Mental health affects all of us in significant -- and even trivial -- ways. 

No one has control over the rise and fall of their own mental health, or those around them, largely due to the fact that the world in which we live cannot be controlled, especially in a public place such as school. It is estimated that at least five million adolescents suffer from severe mental disorders that cause significant functional impairments at home, at school, and with peers. At least 21 percent of adolescents ages 9-17 have  a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes some form of impairment, a staggering figure.

In a row of five--statistically speaking--one student
will be suffering with a mental health condition.
Looking around a high school classroom, consider one row of approximately five desks. Statistically speaking, one of those students is probably living with a mental condition. On a larger scale, the population of L-S High School is approximately a thousand students, so statistically, up to 200 may be experiencing mental health issues. Many of them are undiagnosed. The mere scale of the issue is mind-boggling. And, despite what many parents and other adults say, it isn’t just “a phase.” About 50 percent of all cases of lifetime mental disorders begin by age 14. This is the time that really matters. Most mental illnesses, when left untreated, can lead to much more severe illnesses that are much more difficult to treat.

School Psychologist Ms. Kristin Glass
emphasizes the importance of
engagement and dialogue to
identify potential mental health concerns.
Ms. Kristin Glass, school psychologist at Lampeter-Strasburg High School, emphasizes the importance of engagement and dialogue to identify potential mental health concerns, especially any significant changes in mood or behavior. 

"You don't need an invitation to come down to guidance," she says.

Guidance counselors are not the only ones equipped to listen to someone talk.

"Find a person you can talk to, and just talk to them about it," says Glass.

The first step to combat mental illness is to recognize that it is there. And at Lampeter-Strasburg, it is here.

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in our series "Inside L-S", which aims to shed light in to the deepest issues that face our students, schools, and community. The theme for September is mental health. For more of our series, please see our Inside L-S page.

--David Johnson, Co-Director of Photography, Mental Health Series Coordinator

Edited: BP 

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