My Journey with Mental Health Education
Each semester, Learning by Giving asks students to write about their experiences in the classroom. An important part in any Learning by Giving class is an assessment of the needs facing their community. Students review reports, speak to locals experts, and draw upon their own experiences to better understand the needs and issues around their campus.
Our winning blog post is from Jillian Jones, who examines what she has learned about youth and mental health in her class. Jillian is an upper-level student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
We will continue to post reflections from our students all year long in hopes of bringing their voices and experiences to the entire Learning by Giving community.
Like most people, throughout my lifetime I have been increasingly exposed to individuals struggling with issues related to mental health. However, unlike most people, I didn’t start to understand, sympathize, and be affected by mental illness until well into university. Starting university, I was strangely enough, very sheltered from the whole idea of mental sickness. I knew there were disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar etc, and I always chalked it up to a physical difference in the way their brain functioned or was wired.
As I began to expand my social circle and meet new people, I started to learn that the majority of my friends and colleagues openly struggled with their mental health on levels I wasn’t not familiar with. Not only did they admit to facing many challenges, but they were extremely open to talking about it and explaining specifically how they were affected by their illness. This was perhaps the most enlightening way for me to learn about my community’s needs. Throughout my four years here at McMaster, I have become more comfortable openly talking about my lack of knowledge regarding mental health topics. I have become rather eager to seize opportunities to fill in the gap of my understanding and I really enjoy having meaningful discussions with friends, family, colleagues and peers. I truly believe that these conversations have helped me develop a better understanding of mental illness.
In my philanthropy lecture, we as a class, are required to donate a sum of money to a charity of our choice. The idea is to learn about the importance of the process, research and procedure that goes into philanthropy. My class in particular has decided to focus on charities that advocate for mental health and wellness. As a result, I have begun to expose myself more to conversations, articles, and social media coverage related to topics of mental health and wellness. I chose to expand into more academic resources, primarily articles.
One of the most surprising discoveries I have made thus far is with regards to young children and mental health. In an article published in the Hamilton Spectator it was noted that “Since 2010 hospitalization rates for anxiety related disorders for Hamilton children skyrocketed from 20 to 187 per 100, 000. For mood disorders in children, the hospitalization rate more than doubled over the same period” (Steve Buist, 2019).
This was really troubling to me, because I never really considered the need for support in the young population. I have primarily been exposed to mental illnesses within my own community at McMaster, which is made up of young adults in their early to mid twenties. The fact that kids as young as 8-10 struggle mentally is worrisome, because it must additionally be difficult for them to identify what’s wrong. If they don’t have any previous knowledge of mental health, like myself, then how are they expected to understand their condition and seek appropriate help? It’s not like the child has a clear wound or fracture that they can point to during a doctor’s visit. It is clear that there is a need for resources and awareness in the mental health sector with a specific focus on children.
I am both excited and proud to be part of a class that gets the opportunity to provide some financial support for a need in Hamilton that I didn’t even know existed! I’m further intrigued to research more on specific organizations and how they approach aiding youth’s understanding of mental health.