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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Guest Opinion: Young People Battling #MentalIllness Don’t Need To Do It Alone

As a #doctor, I see many patients suffering with not only physical but psychological problems every day. The ongoing #stigma around #mentalillness can cause people to suffer in silence, yet #mentalillness is a problem that impacts more than many may realize.

Unfortunately, young people are no exception, with more than 21% of teenagers and around 13% of children experiencing a severe mental disorder at some point during their lives.

#JamesDonaldson notes:
 Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is oe of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

The #mentalillness seen in adults frequently has its beginning in childhood. Identifying and tackling #mentalillness early in a person’s life can greatly improve their chance for a happy and productive adulthood.

It’s difficult to comprehend just what the impact of #mentalillness is, but the consequences are certainly felt by those who struggle with it. From higher rates of chronic illness and homelessness to issues in school — including absenteeism, failure and expulsion — the cost of untreated #mentalillness is high.

Most importantly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youths aged 10-24, with 90% of those individuals having an underlying #mentalillness. In New Jersey, 283 of our residents in that age range committed #suicide between 2013 and 2015.

This tragic loss of life might have been prevented if the young people battling #suicidal thoughts had information and resources to help overcome them. It is quite literally vital for our youth to get the help they need when it comes to their #mentalhealth.

The first step in helping people is identifying exactly who needs the help. Various organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have emphasized the importance of annual screenings for #depression in adolescents, which is why I have introduced legislation to require screening in schools for students between the seventh and 12th grade. Parents would be informed if the test found signs of #depression in their child and would receive information on accessing various professional resources to address the problem.

I also proposed a bill that would require hospitals to provide anonymous data to the New Jersey Poison Control Center regarding the number of attempted and completed #suicides by minors.

Monitoring the annual number of #suicides would help New Jersey understand the scope of the problem and analyze whether existing #mentalhealth initiatives are making a difference.

However, preventative measures alone may not always be enough to keep someone from attempting #suicide in the midst of a severe #mentalhealth crisis. In those instances, immediate support can make all the difference. That is why another piece of legislation I sponsor would require educational institutions to print the number of a #suicidepreventionhotline on the back of every student identification card, to remind students of helpful resources and guarantee they have that information readily available in their time of need.

These certainly will not be the last bills I propose to help address the #mentalhealth needs of New Jersey’s young people. I also serve as a member of the Professional Black Caucus’ emergency task force to address the alarming rise of #suicide among black youth, because it’s an undeniably important topic that we must continue to discuss.

We must find ways to help the most vulnerable among us. In particular, teachers and schools must have resources to assist in identifying troubled youth, develop curricula on #mentalhealth education — including social and emotional learning — and improve access to #mentalhealthprofessionals within schools.

#Mentalillness can be a lifelong battle, but it is not one that must be fought alone.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway’s district office is in Delran.

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