‘thresh·old’ to the Future

Health, many people fail to realize, exists in a dynamic state. Like I mentioned in my earlier post 

I’m EXTREMELY passionate about the subject, BUT I’m not only pitching the typical diet and exercise speech you hear everywhere else in the world, INSTEAD overall well-being.

I decided to come into the Health Education field when I was a 17 year old Senior at Flushing High School sitting in my health class realizing that I was just a few months away from college and didn’t even know and understand the anatomy of my own body. I watched some students struggle with grasping information thrown to us in a quick 14 weeks. And while some students looked to know all this information Ms. S gave about sex, drugs and other topics, you would’ve thought I was the 40 year old virgin who favored simple living and was unaware of the true world that exists around her, but instead lived in a giant bubble.

This is when I used myself as an example and said the topic of health education, not just sexual education, should have presence in earlier age grades.

I went on a search for issues in Health Education and found great interesting blogs in the field of education by Julia Steiny

… a writer and education consultant who’s been working on kids’ issues for over 20 years.

Her blog post titled “Put Kids’ Mental Health at the Center of Education” sheds light on another dimension of health that society is not used to hearing about and one rarely associated with children, mental health.

— Kids’ mental health is at least as important as their physical health.

YESSS – I’m very much interested in Julia Steiny’s thoughts because as a future health educator, my plan is to move children and bring to parents’ attention that a healthy child and practicing living a healthy lifestyle is not just about how you eat and how fit you are. Though those are important, it also has to do with relationships children encounter all throughout growing as well as making sure their minds are healthy amongst the other dimensions. It seems to quickly be forgotten that kids can share the same feelings as an adult such as bad moods, insecurities and trouble fitting in. Steiny says,

… the mentally healthy are those people who feel able to identify their own needs and issues, and can negotiate for themselves civilly, within the context of a community.  Kids and adults alike must learn to take responsibility for their daily moods, feelings and the nasty messages they allow their heads to tell them. (Like: “I’m too weird to have friends.”) Those who can’t manage feelings on their own need to talk to a friend, a mom, a professional.

Society needs to stop using the terms “mental health” and “mental illness” interchangeably and begin putting effort into understanding children’s feelings, letting them talk and reassuring them you’ll always be right there working on it with them, together as a parent, a friend or as an educator. Each individual has their role in this and with each contributing their two cents and investing their time in these children, changes are almost undeniable.

So my wish for the new years is that we move mental health to the center of our concerns for kids.  Leaving it at the fringes is doing none of us any favors, but least of all the young people we’re supposed to protect.  Even if it’s only the sniffles, we attend to illness.  Why put up with so little attention to feelings?

All dimensions of health exist interdependently, where the physical component is just as important as the environmental one. A healthy being cannot exist without possessing characteristics of each. It is not until then that they are whole. Julia Steiny’s “Put Kids’ Mental Health at the Center of Education” and her writing in general motivates me to make health education a subject of relevance. In today’s society, it needs to be taken seriously because although it may be late for some of us and although we’ve missed out in ways,  our children should have a chance. Our children have a chance. I hope other educators and people of all kinds share my ideas so that we can save our children. They are the future and they should be whole, vibrant, healthy little kids.

8 thoughts on “‘thresh·old’ to the Future

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and I agree society must stop using the terms “mental illness” and “mental health” it makes it sound like more of a psychological problem.
    There are a lot of kids out there, who go through so many difficult timings, they would want to talk about it someone but are afraid or not even taught to express their feelings. Putting kids mental health at the center of education would definitely help save our children.

  2. Great points. I like how Steiny make the comparison with paying attention to the sniffles and paying attention to mental health. I guess it’s just easier to see a physical weakness rather than a mental one.

    I’m not sure how Steiny intends to put kids mental health at the center of education, but I’d be interested in hearing some of her ideas about making this feasible.

    • My answer as to how to get mental health more centrally located in kids’ lives is Restorative Practices. They are simple, back-to-the-future techniques that build social capital. If you get online, you’ll find a lot about restorative justice — in fact, the NY Times magazine ran an amazing piece last week. But the justice end of the restoration continuum focuses on wrong-doing, while I’m much more interested in helping kids, families, schools, and communities build a social infrastructure that helps them prevent and resolve conflicts. I have a very tired, old website that is being rebuilt that will give you some idea of what I’m up to. It’s at youthrestorationproject.org. That’s my answer.

      Loved all of your comments. Very cool.

      • Thanks so much for jumping in and giving our class some feedback! They are investigating how to make connections with bloggers and others discussing topics of interest in education online. It’s always a great moment when someone from the open internet jumps in as it can be a big eye opener.

        And I’m going to personally look for the Times article you mentioned It sounds really interesting.

  3. Agreed, your post touches on an element of child education that sometimes gets overlooked, mental health in a child should always be considered and examined by the adults that influence them. People may have a variety of opinions on this issue but the main point is that we as educators address the issue head on. Good topic to discuss…

  4. Great post. I’ve always been more concerned with keeping kids active, but after years of working with different age kids I also see an importance for more mental health discussions in the classroom

  5. Mental health and mental illnesses are very important topics for anyone to know about, specially for K-12 students. I attended my first health education course when I was a junior in high school. I agree with you, mental health/mental illnesses courses should be thought earlier that what it is normally is accustomed to.

  6. Awesome post! Mental health, especially in children is far too often over-looked. It is time to bring awareness to this topic and younger students should be exposed to and taught how to achieve overall well-being. The importance of the body/mind connection needs to be instilled in our children from a young age in order to prepare them for a lifestyle of wellness. Good job and good luck to you!

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