Editorial-Madison Westwater, senior Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School

According to the National Mental Health Institute, approximately twenty percent of all Americans will suffer from a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life. Despite this high frequency, there are a lot of negative misconceptions, stigmas, and just plain lack of common knowledge about mental health. However, all of the negative attention that mental health receives does not change the fact that it is just as important as physical health. Historically, mental health has been a topic that simply wasn’t talked about. As of recently, mental health discussions have become much more commonplace with movements like Each Mind Matters, Let’s Talk, and Bring Change 2 Mind. Even though talking about mental health is becoming more common, there is still progress to be made. In an attempt to try and figure out where people stand, I sent an anonymous survey to the student body at G-R. The first question I asked was how much people felt they knew about mental health on a scale from one to five. About 42% answered three, and 33% answered four. Although this is better than I had originally anticipated, I still think that this should be higher. There is a requirement for students to learn about health, although almost all of the health that I learned about was physical, and I think that the balance between mental and physical education could be better. I then gave them seven medical conditions, two of which were not mental conditions. The only one that was consistently recognized as a mental condition was depression. We know about all sorts of diseases, including things that aren’t even affecting humans anymore. Why shouldn’t we be able to say the same about mental health? The next question I asked was out of ten, how many Americans they thought suffered from mental illnesses. The majority vote ranged from six to nine when in reality it is closer to two. While this shows that we aren’t underestimating this problem, we still don’t know just how much of a problem it is. The majority of people indicated that they felt it was a big concern, common, and just as important as physical health. I asked if people would be interested in finding out more, and 48% said yes, and 30% said maybe. So why don’t we teach about this more? One excuse that I have heard as to why certain material of any subject isn’t covered is because it would be “to advanced for students to understand”. While in some cases, this may be legitimately true, I don’t think that this applies to mental health. The last question I asked people was if they had any questions regarding mental health. I am working on finding answers. If you would like to read these questions and my answers, have questions of your own or are looking to continue learning about mental health, check out my blog, Mental Health in the Small-Town Midwest. Anonymous commenting is allowed in an attempt to create a safe space where people are comfortable. It is available at https://mentalhealthsmalltown.blogspot.com/ and will continue to be updated through May 19th. Madison Westwater, senior Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School