You know how at school we’re given all this needless information that doesn’t seem to have any application to the real world? Why do we really need to know about how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell when we’ll have to do taxes? Nobody seems to know this information and you definitely can’t put down “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” when it asks how much you’ve made.
Yep, practical information definitely needs to be taught. Like to prepare for a job interview and general conversational skills. You know that panic you get when you want to be your best and get some money in your pockets! For the students the school system should allow for making friends in the process for life. For the adult figures you want to see these youth become molded into the best people in society. The virtuous, moral figures who are willing to follow the law and stand up for what’s right with bravery.
But let me ask you this: are you prepared to end a friendship or relationship because someone you know may be in danger? Maybe your best friend is going through a rough patch and isn’t acting like themselves. Are you able to ask them if they’ve gone for help yet? Maybe you wait and they’re doing worse in school and you notice some strange marks that could be from self-harm. Will you go to somebody even if your friend tells you not to? If your friend makes a offhand comment about suicide or analyzes death, will you call someone to help them?
If you’ve hesitated at any point while thinking about that situation, then you may have kept a friendship but lost someone close to you in the progress. You may scoff and say ‘that’s an over exaggeration’, but you’ve read those stories before of people who seem fine and then suddenly commit suicide. ‘Those don’t happen very often’ you may say. But imagine yourself at the age of 9 having to witness a scene where a friend in your class holds scissors to his next and threatens to cut his artery. Your heart racing, feeling helpless, and tears streaming down your face.
That happened to me. And imagine yourself having to deal with a situation like that, or some younger kids in your life who don’t know about how serious depressive disorders are. These kids who may get taught about the signs and symptoms of disorders like anorexia or depression but don’t have the strength to go to someone if they were close to them. In order for these children to gain this knowledge, it only makes sense to learn it in the classrooms firsthand.
‘But,’ you may ponder, ‘why spend so much time in school focusing on this when there are other pressing issues? More people are lost to war and other conflict compared to suicide’. That, my dear reader, is a sad incorrect statement. In a tool called GBD Compare global health data is collected to investigate the impact of the causes of human suffering. According to the comparison from 2013, globally, self-harm causes more deaths than both war & legal intervention and interpersonal violence from 10 years and up. To summarize if you don’t understand, you and others around you are more likely to die of self-harm than war or a “bar fight”.
I can imagine your face. Complete and utter shock. ‘How can that be?’ you wonder. It probably is more relevant to the developing world than our own’. Wrong again, I’m afraid, except the problem is the worst for the ages of 15-49. In this age bracket, we’re talking about 10.87% of total deaths for the US, 16.5% of total deaths for Canada, 21.56% of total deaths for Iceland, and 27.01% of total deaths for Japan. In terms of the US, the number of people who died due to self-harm (42083.03) is almost 1/4 the number of people who died of lung cancer (176,187.29).
‘Okay, but now you’re saying facts’, you may be saying after you gotten over the shock of the data. ‘What do you think needs to be done to decrease the number of people who die of self-harm then?’
Thank you for asking! I’ve been waiting for that! It all comes full circle now: education. That is the key to it all. In Epic Measures, the author Jeremy Smith and Chris Murray, one of the creators of GBDx, believe education is one of the most important ways to improve global health. That means spending more time in schools learning about disorders, spending time in class going over scenarios to make sure kids fully understand the severity. Bringing up the same facts I used to scare you and offering time in the school day to relax, learn coping mechanisms for stress, and learning to love yourself.
This also means…drum roll please….more accessibility to resources for help! You can teach all you want, but people will find they need something or somebody to help them out. People need a space where they can completely feel themselves. I personally like curling up in my bed and reading Harry Potter when I want to relax. And everyone needs somebody they feel comfortable ranting to who gets them (‘your person’, if you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan like me).
So regulations should be made to have people learn basic techniques in order to help someone mentally and emotionally. Think of it on the lines of first aid training or lifeguard certification. It’s a lifesaving skill, so why not have this education be free to the public? And access to psychiatrists who can prescribe affordable medications is a need. When 1 year of untreated severe depression means 0.7 years of life lost, wouldn’t you think help is dire?
There are some things, sadly, that won’t be fixed by education alone. Part of the solution also comes with removing the stigma of mental disorders, the way a person should look, and other put-downs that hurt internally. Why can’t everyone love themselves for the way they are? Is it really necessary to do the Kylie Jenner lip challenge? I wish it was that simple, but the influences are everywhere. It’s like big brother always watching you; you pretend they’re not or tune them out, but they always are.
Don’t be spooked by my last phrase. I hope you didn’t check your surroundings for someone stalking you. I hope no one’s watching you. But what I do want you to do is join the revolution! Be the best person you know you can be! Encourage others to do better! And advocate in your communities for a better future for all. The world is counting on you!