Next step: change minds on mental health

Pandemic has increased access to care, but parents need to be on board

Alli Wang, Opinion Editor

While Branham’s efforts to increase mental health support have been beneficial, there needs to be increased outreach towards parents to destigmatize therapy for students.

Students need mental health resources more than ever before. The school shooting threats, the day-to-day interactions, the grades, all of them are stress factors.

We cannot ignore that this generation has been through many stresses, leading to be the most likely to identify as mentally stable. A 2018 poll by American Psychological Organization reported Gen Z being 27% likely to identify as mentally unstable compared to last generations, such as millennials (15%) and Gen X (13%). The ongoing pandemic has also increased the levels of anxiety or depression throughout the country, with 42% of Americans reportedly having symptoms of anxiety or depression according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Social worker Kevin Nguyen has also reported a larger influx of students requesting mental health support at the Wellness Center compared to his past two years at Branham. His mental health support requests have ranged from students experiencing family conflict to students in need of basic needs, such as shelter.

“Coming back to school learning, there’s higher levels of anxiety, depression and isolation that did not help during quarantine,” Nguyen said. “People losing housing and not being able to take care of their basic needs, makes it very hard to focus in school, and also causes a lot of stress, which is mental and emotional turmoil as well”.

While our school has improved mental health support through the addition of the Wellness Center, the hurdle of getting mental health support at school has often been due to the objections of parents or family on therapy, especially immigrant families.

According to a 2020 National Alliance on Mental Health report, Asian Americans have lower rates of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, with only 4.9% of Asian Americans using mental health services, compared to 16.6% of white Americans.

Although Asian Americans are just one of many groups impacted by the stigma of mental health support in immigrant parent culture, the therapy hesitance is prominent throughout several demographics.

While the costs of therapy, especially outside of school institutions, may play a factor in the lack of therapy availability for families of ethnic minorities, the biases towards gaining mental health support also play a major factor.

With the availability of the Wellness Center, students can access therapy without as large of a cost, yet the parental consent by California law required for counseling at the Wellness Center, particularly by the CASSY therapy systems, plays a role in discouraging some students from gaining mental health support.

Ingraining familial outreach on therapy and educating our students on healthy coping mechanisms into our curriculum would help with destigmatizing therapy, while gaining parental support.

Nguyen said he plans to create more parental outreach to help the livelihoods of students and help normalize using therapy.

“Students and their mental health don’t live in vacuums, they’re a part of families and systems and other people in their lives who kind of play off each other or interact with each other? And yeah, so like, it needs to be a more holistic approach in terms of making sure everyone is healthy and doing things for themselves or to take care of themselves.”

Creating therapy as a crucial part of forming our curriculum is a necessity. While Branham currently has a Wellness Center, creating parent education around mental health and its impact on the education for students is crucial. Making therapy widespread is needed in the time of a pandemic.