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How does both the lack of education, and self diagnosis of mental illness create problems in my school?


What You Need To Know

In the last few years mental health illnesses have continued to rapidly rise especially among teens. As these statistics have continued to rise in previous years so has our societies dependency on technology. However, our community tends to still have severe negative social stigma around mental health issues. This negative social stigma is where the problems from my topic begin. Many local school systems still do not provide enough or do not provide any education on the topics of mental illnesses. Instead students are turning to the internet to self diagnosis themselves. They are also not using the correct language or foundational understandings of these mental health issues while talking with their peers and around the school community. This only contributes to students and school communities have distorted understandings of mental illness.

 

 

As we can see the first step to implementing stronger mental health illnesses into students educations begins with having discussions about these hard topics. This is where most schools tend to struggle the most, because it is the hardest step. Once your school community is able to have these difficult discussions it only becomes easier to implement it into the education.

Understanding Self Diagnosis

In our society where there seem to be a million answers sitting at the stroke of a keyboard, it is almost impossible for some to not google whatever problems they may be having. As one of my interviewees stated

“Finding answers to your mental health issues online allows patients to feel validated. It takes away the shame and loneliness they may feel. Even if those diagnoses are completely wrong.”*

As tempting as these answers sound, what students are failing to recognize is how harmful self diagnosing is. Often individuals become overly aligned with the societal label of whatever illness they may have. In other words, becoming hyper-focused on a diagnoses can take over someones identity. The teenage developmental process is crucial to figuring out who they are. However, if they are so focused on a diagnose then typically they are not opening up to who they could be as a whole person.   

The Effect On Others

Due to the language our students and communities use, we now see diagnostic terms becoming a part of the common norm. Students who go around saying things like “i’m depressed, I have OCD, I am going to have a panic attack” is creating more issues for students who are truly diagnosed with these illnesses. These are often the “louder” students who may show some symptoms but are not truly diagnosed. The louder students often take away from those who are diagnosed and are typically known as quieter students.

           The Medical Perspective 

The more harmful problems of self diagnosing come from a medical perspective. If one wrongly diagnoses themselves and then attempts to seek treatment for an illness they don’t have serious health complications are possible. For example, if someone believes they are clinically depressed and they manage to take anti-depressants, they run the risk of creating new health issues. They also are ignoring what their true illness may be and not getting the correct treatment.

 

“Self Diagnosing is like self medication; a temporary fix to a long term problem.”

Jeff Dejarlais Director of Health and Wellness at Concord Academy

My View Into The Future

As I mentioned earlier I was a teachers assistant for a freshmen seminar class where some topics of mental health illnesses were discussed. I had originally hoped to implement more education on the topic into this class. The most important information that I hope can be taken away from this web page is the call for having more discussions in school about mental health illnesses. This in turn will hopefully allow more education to be implemented into classes and have fewer students self diagnosing themselves. If the diagnostic terms that are used by professionals can be changed for school communities the affects of self diagnosis will also hopefully lessen. 

How You Can Be Involved

3 Steps You Can Take

  1. Don’t contribute to “normalizing” diagnostic terms; Use other language that have similar meanings but not as severe impacts. 
  2. Open up the conversation for mental health illnesses in your school; This will hopefully contribute to more discussions and further education in schools. 
  3. Do not jump to conclusions if you are researching a mental illness you may or may not have. 

“There is a difference between whats self exploration and what’s considered unhealthy”

Rebecca Minor Clinical Social Worker/Therapist

In order to lessen the amount of students who self diagnose and raise the amount of conversations in schools, surrounding mental illnesses I need more information from you. 

In the comments below, please let me know what you think by answering two questions: 

  • Have you contributed to normalizing diagnostic terms such as saying you are OCD or “I am depressed” when not clinically diagnosed? 
  • Does your school have discussions or built in education about mental illnesses? If so how extensive is the education and how often are there discussions?

I also invite you to comment on anything else you have read on this page!

Work Cited and Consulted 

* Quote 1- Rebecca Minor Clinical Social Worker Therapist 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BgpmmpCFYHiJ0kQn93jcTmR1fJ10xhzFYxRqorlVEXM/edit?usp=sharing

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COMMENTS: 5
  1. April 23, 2020 by Grace

    I really like the concept of your presentation. I think this is such an overlooked issue that really needs to be discussed and taken seriously in the modern school system. I do not believe I have contributed to normalizing diagnostic terms around mental health as I take these statements very seriously. My school does have some discussions about mental health. However, they are not continuous. We do not have classes that talk about mental health or a year long program meant to reinforce mental health knowledge.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Maria

    I think this is a really great topic! I know so many people personally who do contribute to normalizing diagnostic terms and when I talk about it they don’t really think its a big deal. In my school, we do have discussions about mental health but its mostly a short class covering one or two topics.

  3. April 26, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Sarah, you’ve generated awareness about an important angle of this topic. I am guilty of it, too! How might you be able to continue the conversation at your school and elsewhere after this conference is over?

  4. April 27, 2020 by Iman

    Hi Sarah,

    This is a really great topic you chose to focus on and I was able to learn a lot through your page. I’ve definitely used to say things like “I’m depressed” and “I’m so OCD” when I was younger, but after my school designated a day to talk about mental health in my freshman year, I was able to see what was wrong with what I was doing and abruptly stopped. I still slip up every now and then, but I’ve become more aware of it. Besides that, my school has put up posters and mentioned mental illness in the past, but the conversations are too few and far between, and I believe my student body could benefit a lot from more discussions on the topic.

    -Iman

  5. April 27, 2020 by Chauncey Hill

    This is a really important to understand especially with the increase use of the internet in our society today. I agree that self-diagnosis is a HUGE problem that a lot of teenagers face. It is easy to say “I am depressed” and not realize the severity of the topic. Or, saying “well I don’t have all of the warning signs so I am not depressed.” Both can lead to really bad things and I am so glad that you touched base on that.

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