Olathe schools seek to reduce stigma surrounding mental health

Hannah Holliday, Reporter

Most people can agree that it is important for people with mental illness to talk about their struggles. Gathering support from others can be an important factor in the recovery process, as isolation can cause mental health symptoms to increase sharply in severity according to the US National Library of Medicine. Being social can help develop positive coping mechanisms, lessen stress, and build a higher self-esteem. 

Unfortunately, 1 in 5 youths ages 13-18 will have at least one mental illness in their lifetime, and 56% of all affected Americans do not receive treatment. Roughly 18.1% of the United States population have some type of anxiety disorder according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It is crucial to be educated on mental health; it affects everyone in some way. 

Though it is important to discuss mental health, there is a line where this discussion can be unhealthy. 

Mental health is well on its way to be fully destigmatized, but there is still a great deal of discomfort around the idea of being emotionally close to someone with mental illness. 

This is understandable, as most people would feel responsible if someone they were supporting were to have an episode, self-harm, or commit suicide. 

Feeling constantly responsible for the life or well-being of someone or being lashed out at during an episode is extremely toxic for both parties. 

It is imperative to be mindful about relationships, especially when people with mental illness are involved. Though people with mental illness should not be treated like glass, there are differences to be considered.

For instance, many people with anxiety tend to be extra sensitive to others’ actions, tone of voice, and word choice. They may ask questions to gather extra reassurance. Many people with depression need reassurance about their self worth and hope for the future.

While anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, it is important to be educated on other type of mental illness, such as dissociative disorders and eating disorders.

The reality is that no one person can cure someone else. If someone is having an episode or lashing out, they should be in the hands of a trained adult, not an untrained adolescent. 

The best way to support someone suffering with mental illness and not in a critical state is to listen. Know their triggers and be mindful. Joke in a respectful way, at their level of comfort. Be there and be empathetic. 

Feeling important and loved is one of the most important aspects of mental illness recovery. The counseling office is always available for resources, or visit a trusted teacher or administrator.

To Write Love on Her Arms is a foundation created to help people who suffer from mental illness find support, resources, and hope. Visit their website for mental health resources, information and ways to help.


The Help Clinic is a way for students and families to access a variety of different types of free counseling from mental health professionals in the Olathe School District. Visit the counseling office or the Help Clinic website to get started.


For resources about the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program and more statistics visit: http://departments.olatheschools.com/studenthealth/files/2016/09/Suicide-Prevention-OSD-August-2016.pdf