The Impatient Patient: The Paralympics’ dim spotlight

U.S. and South Korean ice hockey teams battle it out. Photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

The buzz from the 2018 Winter Olympics may be dying down, but the hype for the Paralympics is just igniting — but barely. Since 1976, the year of the first winter Paralympic games, winter Paralympians have won 278 medals, more than the 197 medals earned by Olympians.

Despite this, there is a longstanding disparity between Paralympians and Olympians worldwide in terms of coverage received and money earned for winning medals, among others. This is not an issue exclusive to the U.S., but one that happens worldwide.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) signed an agreement that will extend to 2032 with goals to not only bring about more awareness to the Paralympics, but also to ensure their longevity.

While this agreement is promising, it is hard to ignore the Olympic-sized gap between the two major sporting events. According to an article in the New York Times, the number of American reporters at the Paralympics dropped from 57 to 33 reporters. NBC alone sent 89 reporters to the 2018 Olympics, according to their website.

Of the 801 reporters worldwide covering the Paralympics, American reporters comprise of roughly four percent. Meanwhile, American athletes make up 43 percent of all Paralympic athletes competing, according to the official Team USA website. That constitutes, roughly, to seven athletes per reporter — extremely uneven coverage.

American Paralympians have been making great strides at the Olympics, currently owning the largest number of medals. It is a shame that we cannot be bothered to provide equal coverage to such athletes. We have athletes overcoming tremendous feats, yet their stories, much less their accomplishments, are given a very dim spotlight to be showcased in.

The same lack of coverage was apparent in the 2016 Paralympics as well. According to an article on The Conversation, 52 reporters (excluding NBC) were sent to the Paralympics compared to the 400 sent to the Olympics.

So what is causing the Paralympic coverage drought? According to this study published in 2003, journalists did not cover the event because they felt as though readers were simply not interested, and it was not worth the actual the cost of coverage. Another reason was the sentiment that the Paralympics did not rival the Olympics in that it was not a “real competition.”

Journalists may think that the Paralympics may not be an area of interest for the general public, and perhaps they are right. But, you cannot light a flame without a spark. How can the general public even get interested in the Paralympics when there is no coverage readily available?

While this study was published 15 years ago, the amount of coverage remains consistent — consistently low. The “para-” in “Paralympics” comes from the Greek preposition meaning “to be beside with.”

It was given to illustrate that both the Olympics and Paralympics were to exist together, with one not being placed on a higher pedestal than other. The origins of the Paralympic name has its heart in the right place, but until the same respect that is given to the Olympics is awarded to the Paralympics, the Paralympic name remains untrue.

An article on the South China Morning Post proposes an intriguing question — why are the accomplishments of an able-bodied person far more celebrated than the accomplishments of someone with a disability?

The fact of the matter is that the Paralympics were not created as a kind gesture for people with disabilities to compete in a pseudo-major sporting event, and as such, its athletes should not be seen as secondary.

The Impatient Patient: How Weight Watchers’ new teen program offers benefits to low-income families

Weight Watchers’ recent decision to offer free memberships to teenagers has been met with much backlash across the internet — and this comes as no surprise, as we, as a society, have become increasingly focused on what it means to be healthy. However, the concern over  the effects of dieting on impressionable teens ignores another group — individuals who do not have access to healthy food options.

Weight is a touchy topic, as it brings about issues of body image, eating disorders and of course, what it means to be “healthy.” Is healthy a lifestyle, or is it a body size? Is “skinny” the new healthy?

Magazines and media are dominated by models, according to an article on, an industry where a BMI of 15 or 16 is ideal. Obviously, this is unrealistic for the average American woman.

A study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine breaks the long-conceived notion that body size is an indicator of physical health. Being a “normal” weight does not guarantee health. There is no set trend — overweight individuals are shown to be as healthy as their thinner peers, and thinner people also exhibit health problems frequently found in those overweight.

So, the basis of the correlation between body size and healthiness is very much baseless. Despite this, “skinny” is still being touted as an ideal. However, while being overweight is not an accurate depiction of an individual’s health, there are still health issues that stem from being overweight, such as diabetes, heart disease and strokes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The problem is that issues regarding weight are constantly viewed from a limited perspective, without concern for other stances. We skew conversations about weight too closely to a certain side of spectrum — that we should love our body, no matter what. That one should not diet, because they are fine the way they are. Or that being overweight is tied with unhealthiness and is often associated with numerous unsavory stereotypes, such as laziness.

While I completely agree with the need for body positivity and that one’s body size should not be an indicator of anything, people must also  see another side of the spectrum and start making conversations surrounding weight not about body size, but about lifestyle.

Backlash from the program is due to the concern that by handing out free memberships, Weight Watchers is encouraging teen dieting, which itself has disastrous effects. However, a statement provided to CNBC from Weight Watchers states that their focus, unlike their original program which has a point system categorizing food, hopes to instead shift the focus on the development of healthy eating habits, not counting calories.

Furthermore, the new program catered towards teens solves a potential problem of teens utilizing the program as means of unnecessary weight loss, by offering a family-oriented approach — teenagers can only make use of the program should their parent or guardian allow them to do so. In doing this, the chance of a teenager participating in the program for the wrong reasons are lessened. Through the program, Weight Watchers are also able to screen teenagers who are at risk of developing a potential eating disorder.

Another added benefit is that this program will be of great service to those in low-income households. According to the Food Research and Action Center, those of lower income face do not even have the alternative of opting for a healthier lifestyle.

Lower income families have a greater abundance of fast food restaurants surrounding them. This is further exacerbated by a lack of farmer’s markets, which provide perishable foods. When perishable foods are in access, they are often of lower quality.

Aside from the poorer quality of food, for those of lower income, food is not always a constant. Due to the limited stream of meals, low-income households may experience periods with no food, which leads to skipping meals. And, due to the uncertainty in when one’s next meal may be, individuals tend to overeat in periods where food is present. The lack of equilibrium between skipping meals and overeating all contribute to poor eating habits that continue on in adulthood.

Poverty and obesity is a link that is often overlooked, and I applaud Weight Watchers for offering up a program that opens up options previously closed to lower income individuals. For now, there are no concrete statistics that prove the benefits of Weight Watchers’ new program. But, in the meantime, recognize that not everyone is in a position of privilege to be able to start a healthier diet regiment.

It is misleading to accuse Weight Watchers of encouraging teenagers to engage in dangerous diets. Embracing the body you are born in is of utmost importance, but this should not understate the struggle that low-income families have when it comes to accessing healthier food options.

The Impatient Patient: Video game addiction more than a virtual reality

Part 1 of this series can be found here

Gaming addiction now has a place into the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Diseases. However, there has been debate over whether or not the decision to brand it as an actual disorder is a premature choice. The gaming world is already very stigmatized, and there are concerns that with its induction as a disorder, more stigma is added.

Are cases in which people have died due to overexposure from video games simply an anomaly? Perhaps — the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study that seems to refute the validity of a gaming disorder, in that only a small part of the population may qualify for a diagnosis of it.

In addition, according to Professor Mark Griffith of Nottingham Trent University, an author on the study, to diagnose gaming without looking at other factors is harmful, as there is the possibility of a pre-existing mental disorder present, and that it is not just video games themselves that incite such destructive behavior.

Few qualify for an actual diagnosis according to study — but is it just to write the those affected as outliers? Illustration by Renee Wang

However, in Asia, where video game addiction is surging and has taken form in its own culture, larger cases of those affected by gaming addiction have been cited. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, in a study done, figures of 10 to 15 percent gamers addicted have been recorded in the East, compared to 1 to 10 percent of western gamers.

According to Nigel Henderson, president of Mental Health Europe, a lack of social connections or a supportive network of family and friends may spur an individual to turn toward  video games.

The need for human interaction is inescapable — in fact, friendship and intimacy have their own tier on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — and for obvious reasons. The advancement of human civilization was not borne out of a single individual making great leaps, but out of groups of individuals.

English poet John Donne once wrote no man is an island, and this makes for more than an impactful peace of poetry. According to psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a lack of social connections with peers increases chances of early death by 50 percent.

Does the culture in Asia mirror feelings of isolation, where social connectivity is perhaps not such an inherent part of the culture? It is possible, seeing as the Korean Institute for Health and Social revealed 90 percent of Korean adults were under some form of stress daily, while  Newzoo, a market intelligence provider,  reported that 49 percent of gamers in Korea are adults between 21 and 35.

As a matter of fact, WHO’s prospective induction of gaming addiction stemmed from pressure from Asian countries, according to WHO officials. In particular, the South Korean government has funded campaigns and treatment centers all centered around the problem of gaming addiction.

South Korea has even set laws in place to limit screen time within younger children. Noted in the Shutdown Law passed in 2011, in which children younger than 16 were disallowed from video games between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Though this law has since been dissolved following backlash, the addition of it highlights the South Korean government’s battle against video games.

While gamers in Korea do not fall into the age range of that of teenagers, the precedence of the Shutdown Law marks that methods of prevention are being implemented to rid of the use of gaming and the possible dangers it might incite among youth.

If stress and lack of connectivity are concurrent factors that might result in a video game addictions, Korean students may just be at risk. According to the New York Times, 53 percent of Korean students with thoughts of suicide attributed academic inadequacy as main contributor to such thoughts. Among teens in the rigorous Korean school system with little free time, the refuge of video games is an outlet for coping with stress from school, according to Engadget.  

In the end, it is undeniable that video games and their culture induced from stress pressure, whether in the East or West, has been elevated to a point where it causes seriously destructive incidents for those affected. An individual dying from playing too much video games is rare, but the fact that there are such individuals should be a cause of concern.

While a small group of individuals may not reflect an overall population, who is to say that similar incidents may not follow? It may be better to not propose a war on video games just yet, but making available treatment options for those in danger of spiraling can only do more good than harm.

The Impatient Patient: Video game addiction more than a virtual reality

Video game addiction now has a place on the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases draft for 2018. For now, it falls under the very general umbrella term of behavioral and drug disorders that stem from addiction.

For a long time, there has been debate on video games, such as, does it invoke violent behavior in those playing? And with its new introduction on WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, further debate arises.

Not only is there debate on the validity of this addiction, but Higher Education Video Game Alliance, a group that advocates for video games in academic settings,  opposes this addition, stating a “clear lack of consensus” between doctors and scientists. The group also addressed the potential stigma that might follow in their statement.

I definitely see where this apprehension is coming from — video games are one of those things that are not only so common in daily life, but also seemingly harmless. Some play video games at sleepovers, others as an outlet for negative emotions. We throw around the word “addicted” carelessly and forget the actual gravity attached to it.

Those affected with video game addiction, according to WHO’s guidelines, possess no control on how often they play — WHO cites a general timeline of a year or more for concerns to be raised. Gaming addiction affects critical areas in an individual’s life from work to school to relationships. And, as a matter of fact, people have died as a result of video games.

Take Lee Seung Seop, who played video games for more than 50 hours, consumed little food and took one one bathroom break throughout, according to an article on BBC and. Shawn Woolley, according to a CBS news article, killed himself while his video game continued blaring across his computer screen. His mother believes the game contributed to his death, but Sony Online CEO says players need to take responsibility.

Seop was so entranced by the world of video games he neglected to attend to his basic needs. Woolley may have found solace in video games, only to become a victim of it. These individuals entered the gaming world and never left, and such a thing could happen to the 42 percent of Americans who play video games as well.

I do not know these men or their circumstances, but what I do know is that their deaths could have been prevented. Video game addiction is more than just a virtual reality its poses real consequences, and now that is has been addressed, it needs to be taken seriously. For one to ignore it or even oppose its induction into WHO is highly insensitive.

It should not take another story on the news for one to accept the validity of gaming addiction. You may not understand it, but, at the very least, understand the serious consequences of it, the direness of it and how video game addiction’s official classification does only good, such as raising awareness and offering more widespread treatment and coverage.

Times are changing, and they always will be changing. Video games, their increasingly real virtual landscape, dialogue and addictiveness are all part of it.

The Impatient Patient: Why TV shows catered to children have the responsibility of representation

Is television the glue of American society? Perhaps, seeing as we devote five hours daily to a screen, according to the New York Times. For children between the ages eight to 18, a eerily similar figure of 4.5 is cited.

When kids and teenagers devote such a significant chunk of time to television, the question that needs to be answered is: how are these shows influencing them? While television has been linked to positive learning (for example, shows like “Dora the Explorer” or “Sesame Street”), studies have connected types of television programs watched that may present suggestive themes to violent behavior in kids to reckless sexual behavior and subpar academic performance, according to the National Library of Medicine.

An analysis of Disney Channel shows and the issues featured in them from 2001-2017. Infographic by Renee Wang.

While most TV shows for children do not contain such mature themes, the fact of the matter is that what children watch on television transcends just a few minutes of screen time.

Most kids’ TV shows follow a specific formula of a perfect nuclear family and a leading character who gets into wacky situations, living in a utopia where real issues cease to exist. While the intention of this formula is to produce 20 minutes of light-hearted slapstick for kids to look forward to, TV producers have an influence that is not always used as wisely as it should be.

As such, I found it appropriate to analyze the programs I watched growing up on Disney Channel, where the bulk of my treasured shows aired. Disney Channel also happens to be one of the top rated networks in the nine to 14 age group, according to Nielsen co., a market research firm.

My findings represented a downward trend for the most part, in that shows from 2001 on featured episodes concerning racial, gender and societal issues in their episodes than their later counterparts. Still-airing TV show Andi Mack, is an exception, having the highest percentage of issues featured, with episodes dealing with familial, gender and LGBTQ+ issues.

Shows after 2003 failed to produce episodes highlighting racial issues, which is irresponsible, at best. The characters in shows may live in a world where discrimination is not prevalent, but some of the children watching are forced to confront hateful incidences much earlier. By producing television shows stuck in a bubble, it inadvertently causes the children watching to be stuck in a limited worldview.

To exclude issues of race only reiterates that it is and has been a growing issue in America. Racial tensions may not be the easiest topic to talk about, but progress cannot be made if it is suppressed. Including ongoing and often difficult issues does not subtract from the lighthearted air of kids TV shows, nor does it decrease the learning value intended.

To argue that ignorance is bliss is irresponsible — racism, sexism and discrimination are all themes anyone is bound to experience, and as mentioned above, for some this is experienced earlier than most. For shows with tremendous influence and a wide audience, effectively presenting such issues in an appropriate and positive way can teach kids watching life lessons that will segway into making them better equipped in life.

If a culture of acceptance and understanding is instilled in children from a young age, I can only wonder how many more issues could be easily resolved, from encounters in real life to contentious political issues today.

In particular, “That’s So Raven,” produced in 2003, showcased an episode in which the titular character Raven does not get a parttime job because of her race — the employer explicitly states that she does not hire black people. Such a plotline may be absent in children’s programming today, but discrimination is still a very real issue.

In an episode of “Lizzie McGuire”, the characters learning to empathize with an immigrant from a different country despite initial mockery of his English. With the immigration bans and anti-immigration rhetoric being thrown out today, I cannot think of a more appropriate lesson to teach kids. Children’s shows featuring people of color simply cannot understate or ignore such issues. There should not be a disconnect between what a young person experiences in real life and the TV shows they watch at night.

That being said, Disney Channel’s shows do feature an upward trend in LGBT representation, with a character on “Andi Mack” recently having come out gay, and “Good Luck Charlie” having aired episode with a same-sex lesbian couple. While it may have been groundbreaking, it was also long overdue.

Instead of being stuck in a rewind of back jokes and vapid fashion trends, Television should be representative of the society we live in.

The Impatient Patient: What’s got your back?

We as students carry a lot of weight on our backs — from the literal weight of the backpacks we carry daily to the mounting pressures of future success. Either way, both weights are an uncomfortable reality for our health.

Our backpacks are heavy, with binders and notebooks crammed in every nook and cranny. Although we only carry our backpacks for a few moments, those moments do add up — from in between the six or seven classes we go to, to walking home for schools.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 14,000 people suffer from injuries involving backpacks. There are a multitude of issues that stem from a heavy backpack, from discomfort to the back, neck and shoulder to, of course, posture issues.

Illustration by Sunania Nayak

The most serious concern: A heavy backpack could actually compress your spine. A study done in 2010 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information discovered that the constant and continual weight pressing against our backs can actually cause the spinal cord to compress, and in turn actually shrink us. Consequently, the wear and tear can cause the discomfort to become chronic.

Rolling backpacks are an easy solution to this dilemma. After all, the weight is off your back and there is still enough space to stuff your backpacks to your heart’s content.

Furthermore, while I want to assert that there is no correlation between a loaded backpack and scoliosis, rolling backpacks are a good alternative for those with it as a pre-existing condition.

But rolling backpacks have fallen out of favor as we’ve grown older.

The logical reasons would be that in a crowded school, they are an inconvenience to carry up the stairs. Another aspect is the aesthetic, combined with the stigma that a rolling backpack is “uncool.”

In all honesty, there is no definite solution to the heavy backpack dilemma — but then again, in all honesty, someone taking preventative measures for their spinal health should not be a cause for ostracization or snarky remarks.

The fact of the matter is that being concerned for your health should not be seen as “uncool.” If your backpack is causing you discomfort, this is not a cause for suppression.

As a general rule of thumb, a backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your actual weight. The distribution of your items is important; place heavy items at the bottom.

Back pain and rolling backpacks, oh my! Deteriorating spinal health is not a fun game to play.

The Impatient Patient: Sleep deprivation should not be a high school rite of passage

According to a study done by the National Sleep Foundation, a mere 15 percent of high school students in the US are sleeping 8.5 hours per school night, the bare minimum of the recommended 8 to 10 hours. For the 85 percent of us, nights are spent fruitlessly trying to outrun deadlines.

We are all too aware of the detrimental health effects that come with a lack of sleep —-  we hear about them in studies made every so often in the news and, most importantly, we are living the effects of a lack of sleep. A lack of sleep comes with a hefty price —- hindered concentration and a risk of heart disease and diabetes, to name a few.

Illustration by Sunaina Nayak

In all honesty, we will never dive deep enough to fish out the reasons — or lack thereof — as to why teens are not getting enough sleep. And while I applaud and very much look forward to Senate Bill 238 that mandates that middle and high schools in California start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., a larger problem still lurks.

The epidemic of sleep deprivation cannot be addressed until we ourselves do do. We have created a culture in which the importance of sleep is understated. We have created a culture in which we have become desensitized to the effects of sleep deprivation happening to us, and the possible effects that we might face.

We have taken sleep deprivation so easily in stride, normalizing it to the point where we find ourselves bragging and comparing how little sleep we get. Why is a student dozing off in class is met with a glare and a sharp tone, but not concern for a deeper issues that must be atoned?

Even if we have later school start times and less homework, or even if we are miraculously gifted a couple more hours in a day, the fact still stands that we have gotten so used to so little sleep that we allow an ongoing cycle to perpetuate in which our body thrives on deprivation, and is in turn fueled by doses of caffeine and energy drinks.

We stay up late, wake up tired, go to school tired and come home tired, crashing on the weekends. While this strategy may help if you have one or two hours in sleep debt, some studies believe that anything more than 20 hours of sleep lost could possibly have irreversible effects.

Our lack of sleep not only affects our scholarly life, but can actually be fatal —- 80,000 drivers fall asleep while driving daily, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites a figure of 100,00 sleep-related traffic accidents. Lack of sleep not only threatens your current wellbeing, but also your future and even the wellbeing of others. If that is not a cause of concern, I do not know what is.

We are not to blame for the lack of sleep, but we should be afraid of our diminished importance placed on such an essential component of life. Being constantly tired is not normal in the slightest. Let us not become a new generation of sleep-deprived teens, and instead recognize that our body has an inherent need for more sleep.

The Impatient Patient: Binging on unhealthy coping mechanisms

According to the National Eating Disorder Association the most common eating disorder in the United States is not anorexia or bulimia nervosa, but a disorder most have never even heard of before —- binge eating disorder. The reason why it is not well known is because although introduced in 1959, it was only inducted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013.

BED is a life threatening disorder, and as with any disorder, preventative measures need to be made. The lack of awareness in society has made it difficult for individuals affected to gain coverage through insurance.

An episode of BED includes consuming an exorbitant amount of food due to a lack of control over oneself. A person experiencing such an episode may continue to eat despite not feeling particularly hungry or being full, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association.

The psychological effects of BED include contempt towards oneself, which can segue into depression and anxiety. Another manifestation of these harmful emotions is the potentially destructive cycle of the continued use of food as a coping mechanism to combat negative feelings.

As such, an individual’s relationship with food and body image is tested with BED. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, three out of ten people in search of weight loss remedies are likely to show symptoms of BED.

It is pertinent to note that BED is more prevalent than we think. It is so easy to understate the seriousness of this disorder, or believe that we are exempt from it. After all, food has a steady presence in our life — it is the the most basic level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs. It is not often we truly evaluate our relationship with the food we consume. After all, compared to other vices, such as smoking for example, food as a source of comfort should be harmless, right?


The fact that BED is the most common eating disorder should make us analyze our culture of unnecessary consumption. While the great thing about American society is that we have an abundance of almost everything, this has become our Achilles heel because as a result, we are at a constant want for this and that. We have so much available to us that we become gluttons for consumption, filling our homes with junk and neglecting to feed our soul.

Moreover, this has turned us into a society where consumption in access has become a norm. The word “binge” is thrown around carelessly. We are surrounded by an abundance of outlets — from streaming options that allow us to “binge watch” any media at ease to fast fashion that lets us  make so many empty purchases as we please.

An expensive haircut we hope will change our persona and the food we eat to fill the emptiness inside — it is not uncommon to project our sincerest longings to meaningless things. These ‘things’ are what we turn to during late nights racing to finish deadlines or escape the social pressures haunting us. After all, they are the steady comforting presence we associate our temporary feelings of gratification with.

These temporal feelings of gratification make us predispositioned to rely on the objects around us. This is why I stress the importance of BED awareness, as well as other unhealthy coping mechanisms. It can be so easy for us to fall prey to it, to disregard the significance of it, especially with it just recently gaining recognition as an actual eating disorder.

The scary reality is that disorders like BED, and other coping mechanisms are employed as distractors from the issues in our daily life. We become so dependant on our vices, they become addictions. And, the fact that these mechanisms are not necessarily ‘bad’ can make us ignore the seriousness of these addictions. We cannot say no to them.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, we must say no to the only vice that provides us with a steady stream of comfort. While it can be so elementary to turn back to these unhealthy coping mechanisms, know that we are all human and in all of our complexities, we cannot help but succumb to pressure.

While I definitely encourage anyone who is able to get professional help to get it, not everyone is afforded the same luxury. As such, I call for anyone reading this article to recognize the unhealthy coping mechanisms in their life, and know that there are a plethora of strategies to productively manage feelings of negativity.

The important thing is to find a medium that works for you and feeds your soul, from meditating to journaling to hiking.From meditation to journaling to hiking, it is all about finding a medium that works for you, and feeds your soul.

The Impatient Patient: One in five teens affected, but what are resources provided?

HHS prides itself on being a diverse campus, and rightfully so, with numerous clubs catering to every interest, ethnicity and more. Just as many institutions do across the country, however,  but there is one group that HHS fails to recognize, – the one in five kids across America who experience symptoms of a mental health disorder.

The current resources at HHS for students struggling with their mental health include a student advocate and numerous teachers who are trained psychologists. In addition, there is a table set up in the HHS office with brochures and infographics specifically concerning mental well-being.

In conjunction with the resources at HHS, a new suicide prevention bill has been implemented as of this year, hoping to combat this issue. Assembly Bill 2246 will soon be implemented in the HHS campus, as well as middle and high school campuses across California.

According to in the California Legislative Information website, Assembly Bill 2246 calls for schools to tailor specific suicide prevention policies and guidance from mental health professionals to train educators in identifying high-risk individuals and in turn, intervening. The bill uses a national survey conducted by the Jason Foundation, which found that educators were the first people students with a possibly suicidal friend seeked advice from. The Jason Foundation is an organization that supplies curriculum material to schools, with the intent that it is through raising awareness and the spread of information that the “silent epidemic” of youth suicides can be prevented.

This is a bill I believe can induce genuine change – it is definitely a step in the right direction. It addresses a large epidemic across America of youths struggling with mental health disorders, in addition to focusing the needs of LGBTQ+ youth who are five times more likely to attempt suicide according to the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a non-profit committed to suicide prevention in LGBTQ+ youth.

Schools now have the opportunity to be the common denominator regarding suicide prevention, a task that simply cannot be accomplished with informed educators alone. Psychologists refer to mental illness as the “silent killer;” it is pertinent to note that there may never be a foolproof way of recognizing students struggling with a mental health disorder. Furthermore, 40 percent of students affected do not seek help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Even with bountiful resources, there is a gap between struggling students and the educators who seek to assist them.

That being said, I do not wish to undermine the current resources at HHS nor do I intend to detract from the potential of Assembly Bill 2246  – individually, these resources are wonderous. As a whole, however, the initiatives fall short.

The question remains: how can students seek the resources they desperately need when the stigma regarding individuals with mental illnesses is rampant, dismissed and disrespectful? When certain mental illnesses are ostracized because they make an individual “weak” and others “violent” or “psycho.” When people fear that their peers will not look at them the same, and that they are ”crazy.”

“Crazy” for having feelings that affect 42.5 million people living in the United States alone. “Crazy,” a word spat out with venom and malice, isolating a struggling individual even more.

Furthermore, let’s not forget about the preexisting notion that mental illness is not a valid medical condition, and can be cured easily with ice cream and and a little time frolicking in the sun. Adding on to the mountain of stigma is the recurring trope in television shows and daily life that an adolescent is simply having “mood swings” and their rebellious behavior is due to “teenage hormones.” How can a student going through such immense changes know if what they are feeling is valid, and that they are going through something much larger than the motions of teenagehood when there is a cornucopia of misinformation pertaining to mental health?

So, what do we do to close this gap? We become warriors and fight misinformation, ignorance and stigmatization. We provide mental health education both ends of the scholarly spectrum – students and teachers. Mental health education in schools for students should not be treated as a fortunate luxury, but a salient necessity. The stigma of mental illness in society and the media we so readily consume are akin to whispers in the wind – common myths supplied by public judgment. Mental health education can put a stop to this misinformation.

Mental health education also allows those unaffected to better understand their peers – as well as the 42.5 million people in the United States struggling with a mental illness – to understand their plights and not make secondhand judgements. Moreover, its impact  can reduce stigma, and let a student know, “Yes, what I am experiencing is valid, there are resources available to me in which I can use, and I can get better.”

The brochures at the HHS office are packets of infinite factual wisdom that I believe, contain information that can genuinely help a struggling student. But, more can be done to repress the stigma that makes mental illness such a taboo topic. Mental health education should not be confined to the halls of the office, but burst into classrooms everywhere.

Around 50 percent of high school students with an underlying mental illness drop out  – education can reduce these numbers and prevent these students from halting their education. The spread of information from mental health education can be the bridge to reducing the shocking statistics we hear about, to reducing the deaths and the “too little too lates”.

I am confident that HHS can do this because inclusion has always been a setting stone of its culture. We as students carry a lot of weight on our backs – literally and figuratively –  with the weight of every decision we make and how it will translate to the amount of money we make or the careers we will one day have. It is a lot to rationalize for freshmen on the cusp of adulthood and for seniors thrown into a limbo between carefree school days and problematic adult ways.

This is why I strongly urge anyone struggling with a mental illness, or concerned with their emotional health to reach out. Schools are tasked with the arduous job of turning bright, young minds into productive members of society. But how can this be accomplished if the “bright, young minds” are plagued with thoughts of self-doubt and even suicide?  Mental health education serves all.