“It’s okay to ask for help.” Those are the words we see on suicide, depression, and many other mental health awareness campaigns. But is it really okay? Many times, you will hear that people “didn’t know how to ask for help” or something similar, but is that really the problem. In my experience, this is not the case. There has been one constant factor that has forever kept me from going to people for help- the fear that they will tell.
When a child goes to their school counselor and tells him/her they have had thoughts of suicide, what is the first thing they do? Call the child’s parents. When they tell a teacher they have been self-harming- what does the teacher do? Tells the principle, who tells the child’s parents. Even on college campuses, there is always the looming threat of the parents being called. There is also the issue of the rumor mill. How long do you think it takes for something like this to get out, especially in schools? And what’s worse is that many people fill in their own details where the story isn’t complete.
When I was going through my depression, the worst thing in the world was the possibility of my parents finding out. I didn’t want them to know, because I didn’t want them to have to worry about me. Other people don’t want their parents to know, because they act negatively towards the issue. I also didn’t want it getting out in my small high school. I feel that this is the problem. It’s not that people don’t know how to ask for to help- they are terrified.
I feel that the mandated reporting policy needs to be changed. I understand the issues of being held responsible and legal things, etc., but the system that is implemented in schools now is not working. It is causing students to hide their feelings out of fear, and suffer in silence. Something needs to be done. Parents do not always need to be the first to know. Instead, the school officials and staff should listen to the students, and maybe they can help students work out the issues without bringing their family into the equation. Teachers and other staff members could be trained in how to handle these issues, much like crisis centers and other anonymous self-help lines. If students would be able to go into their counselors’ offices, and know that they would have more confidentiality than they are given, maybe more people would be willing to open up about the negative voices inside their heads.