As a high school social worker, I have witnessed many situations in which mental health services have not been accessed due to fear of the stigma associated with mental illness.  In a freshman class, I heard students laughing when the teacher asked if anyone had any mental illness in their family.  No one raised a hand.  Yet after some discussion and education about the matter, many hesitantly admitted that they have been affected by depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.  I have seen families refuse services for their child even with strong encouragement that more support is always better.  Students themselves have asked me to not have passes sent for them in class because it is embarrassing to be called to the counseling office.  I have had to make arrangements for appointments to be worked into their schedule so no one will know they are being seen.  Even with conversations comparing mental health to physical health and that you would never deny someone the opportunity to go to a doctor or take medication if they were ill, students still say it’s different and mental illness is something people should be able to control on their own.  Educating people and spreading the message that it is okay to need help and seek treatment is so important and really life saving.”

Authored by an Oak Lawn Social Worker