The comments from the protesting parents make me angry, but things like this also make me sad.
Utah Parents Unite, an activist group that says it’s fighting indoctrination and mask mandates in schools, urged its members to lobby against a bill to expand suicide prevention programs to elementary schools, where, the group said, “suicides are not happening.” (National data obtained by NBC News show that the number of children ages 6-12 who visited children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or self-harm has more than doubled since 2016.)
“It’s not age appropriate,” Utah Parents Unite wrote of suicide prevention in elementary school, “and it’s not a topic we need to introduce into the minds of young children.”
This, sadly, is typical. There are still far too many people in this world who don’t think children have mental health issues, or if they do, it is because someone else suggested it to them. But, as the quote above points out, they absolutely do, and it’s killing more and more kids.
Maybe, most importantly, these parents seem to think they know better, that the mental health of their kids is something they can handle on their own. We know that isn’t true. We know the number of teens who have considered suicide is much higher than the number of parents who think their teen has. That doesn’t suggest that what we’ve been doing is working, it suggests that having mental health resources available at school is a net positive for everyone.
But that fact appears to be no match compared to stigma and conspiracy theories.
We’ve still got so far to go as a society, and the longer it takes, the more people will suffer for it. We’ve already done so much damage to previous generations by not talking about mental health, LGBTQ issues, gender, bullying, racism, abuse, and myriad other issues. It seems that there is a significant portion of the country that desires to keep it that way, who would like to continue doing that damage to their own kids, and others, just to keep themselves and their ideas comfortable.
If you’re one of them, I’ve got some bad news for you. Chances are, at some point in their lives, your kids are going to be dealing with a mental health issue, or maybe even struggling with their sexual identity, and guess who they will absolutely not talk to about it? The parent out there yelling about mental health services being “worthless” and “dangerous”.
I want to leave you with one more quote, from a parent of a child who has benefitted from school mental health services:
“I personally cannot understand why a parent would not want their child to understand — even if their child doesn’t have any mental health issues — … what depression looks like, what anxiety looks like,” Edmiston said. “That doesn’t make sense to me, as a mom, as someone who’s a part of society.”
It doesn’t make sense. It has never made sense. It certainly doesn’t make sense now.