This week is the first ever Teen Health Week, a global initiative dedicated to the well-being of teenagers worldwide. The campaign, launched by physician Laura Offutt and endorsed by the American Medical Association, seeks to increase awareness of teen health issues, engage teens in their own health decisions, and highlight teen health issues as well as how to address them.
Along with addressing vaccines, exercise, sexual health, substance abuse, and other topics, the initiative devotes a day to teens’ mental health.
This portion of Teen Health Week, as well as its segment addressing violence prevention, seems necessary in 2018 more than ever. Teen suicide rates have been on a steady rise over the past decade, anxiety and depression rates are increasing among America’s youth, and school shootings have once again been attributed to alleged, untreated mental illness.
For those who participate, Teen Health Week has the potential to help reduce some of the stigma surrounding mental health for adolescents. It follows tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for decreasing mental health stigma, including talking openly about the topic and educating yourself and others.
The fact that the campaign dedicates an entire day to the topic — with other days dedicated solely to subjects like healthy diets or oral health — conveys the message that mental health should be addressed with the same magnitude as elements of physical health, which is a step in the right direction.
Though helpful, Teen Health Week is just one step in fighting mental health stigma across the country. In order to see significant change in mental health and its perception among teens, there needs to be a daily effort to educate and support even more people around the globe.