MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Russelle Ann Bradbury ·August 5, 2020

Operating as a working parent (without schools) during the most pivotal and uncertain period in modern times has left me feeling more exhausted, helpless and completely drained than I’ve ever felt before.

A global pandemic is traumatic, coupled with the state of the nation and civil rights demonstrations, we have all been on a never-ending up and down, loop-de-loo rollercoaster ride for too long. I am sad. I am sickened. I am worried.I have waves of guilt. I have spikes of pure joy. What have you been feeling?

Since 1999, suicide rates in America have gone up by 33%, almost doubling after the recession in 2008. Considering the state of our nation now, health experts worry that anxiety, depression, and suicide rates will continue to increase at an alarming rate due to the economic and societal state of our nation (source) as COVID-19 and civil rights continue to throw unknown challenges towards us.

In 2020 Tennessee ranks 38th out of all the states in overall youth mental health, ages 12-17 (source). This means Tennessee youth have a higher prevalence of mental illnesses, suicide, and a lower access to mental health care than 37 other states. We are only better than about 1/5 of the country ! Yuck, again, Tennessee?

As a collective, we must acknowledge the storm of misfortune, uncertainty, isolation, and trauma that many students, families, educators and support staff began enduring in March. When we can acknowledge and embrace the collective trauma we can begin to heal and repair.

According to the Tennessee Justice Center, mental health of youth is linked to mental illness stigma and lack of health insurance, “Ending the stigma is the first step; improving the system is the second. We all can help improve mental health [outcomes] by ensuring that teens maintain continuous health coverage and by sharing available resources” (source).

This greatly relates to when children were disenrolled from TennCare and CoverKids, two Tennessee government health insurance programs for low-income families (source). For those families who could not already afford to send their children to a general doctor are suffering disproportionately without health care coverage; directly affecting our youth’s mental health.

We cannot put aside what has finally been brought to light - inequity in public education - we cannot go back to business as usual. I strongly support the Metro Nashville schools decision to begin the 2020/21 academic year with remote learning because the well-being and safety of children is my utmost concern, as I assume is the priority of all just policy makers and leaders.

Yes, another month - season - half year at home with our children will not be comfortable. However, given what little faith we have in federal policies; we must take care of our own first. Dr. Battle and Metro Nashville schools thought about every child, family and employee when they decided to resume virtually.

I encourage all MNPS families and supporters to respond during this difficult transition to our leaders with support, compassion, flexility, patience and acknowledgement of the huge undertaking these leaders are walking without a map. As we all are!

I believe that is the job of our public education system to inform students about mental health resources and give access to school counselors and psychologists that are equipped to help students with mental illnesses.

The time is now. I am a passionate believer in public schools, inclusion and mental health advocacy. That’s why I am running for an elected seat on the Nashville Public Schools School Board in the August 6, 2020 election.

Breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness and special needs is the first step. Teaching our kids that it is healthy to share how they are feeling is so important. Supporting our students as they navigate public school and their youth by giving them access to mental health resources is so imperative. Encouraging our students to seek help is so necessary. Until we show our kids that it is okay not to be okay, we will never bring rates down.

In Tennessee, we have several mental health resources for adults and youth alike including the following mental health resources:

  • If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bullying, or suicide ideation, please call these numbers (ALL ARE AVAILABLE 24/7):

    • Mental Health America of the MidSouth: (615)269-5355

    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text “TN” to 741741 to connect to the Crisis Text Line

    • Tennessee’s Crisis number: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471)

    • Centerstone: 1(800) 681-7444 or (615)463-6600 http://www.centerstone.org/

    • The Crisis Center: (615) 244-7444

  • Davidson County Mobile Crisis Response Team 24/7 (18 and older): (615)726-0125

  • Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services 24/7 (adolescents only): (615)250-7288

  • NAMI Support Groups

    • With Hope in Mind (WMH) Support group: a peer-to-peer support group for family members and friends of people living with mental illness

    • BRIDGES Support Group: Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support group for people with mental illness

  • http://teenmentalhealth.org/

  • Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network

  • Tennessee Comprehensive School-based Mental Health Resource Guide

  • TN Mental Health Services

With awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance we can get through this together. We are #NashvilleStrong.

Don't forget to vote Thursday, August 6!