What Age Is Too Young to Start the Conversation About Mental Health?
By Reggie K.
Exposing children to the very vivid lifestyles of mental health is crucial to their social skills. Social skills between children and teens impact the learning environment and the safety of all students. Being able to respect one another and creating intentional boundaries to prevent bullying based on mental health is vital to a healthy environment for all. I can remember, as an elementary student watching the disabled children exit the “short bus” on the side of the building at the beginning of the school day. Popular kids would ridicule disabled children with countless jabs connecting to the hearts of the many ones unable to defend themselves. These behaviors were unacceptable yet, continued for years. The School administration never addressed the student body about the ongoing bullying to disabled students. Why did the adults not conduct a lesson about mental health and share it with students so they could become more inclusive? What age is too young to start a conversation about mental health?
The question of “What age is too young to start the conversation about mental health?” continues to perplex researchers and professionals due to the sensitive nature. Many people support early education because the exposure and resources to draw upon can make children of all ages more inclined to host an inclusive environment for children with mental health differences. According to Today’s Parent, “Talking to kids about mental illness is hard—so hard that many of us put it off indefinitely, not wanting to expose them to things like depression or overwhelming anxiety when they’re so young and innocent. But rather than keeping kids in the dark, it’s essential to learn how to talk about mental health to help them feel comfortable talking about their worries and end the stigma before it begins.”
Sesame Street introduced a new character to the show named Julia with Autism in 2017. Sesame Street is a local television show available via the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) geared toward children ages three to four years old. Sesame Street made an intentionally inclusive environment for Julia, allowing her not to fear herself and teaching the very young viewers to respect all children. This gesture stirred up conversations from parents voicing how pleased they were with the beloved children's show introducing actual reflections of life. With no complaints, some parents feel that introducing mental health to children can start as young as three.
Mental health impacts people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations, political views, religious beliefs, and social-economic statuses. Family members often become advocates for those with mental health conditions in hopes of protecting them from social isolation. After interviewing mothers from diverse backgrounds, our findings indicated that a surprisingly large number of mothers are currently dealing with children with mental health issues.
“I have three children, and one has autism. It is a struggle to balance, not him, but everyone else. For instance, when people meet him, they tend to treat him as if he’s helpless, or like he’s unequal.”
As adults, we too must continue the discussion of mental health and inclusion in the workplace. In the workplace, co-workers do not have to disclose their mental health status. As conflicts arise within the workplace, workers with mental health issues are often the victim because administrators, supervisors, and other staff members are not knowledgeable about their condition. As a result, workplace bullying and sexual harassment are on the rise. How can we, as adults, teach children about mental health while allowing negative behaviors in the workplace to continue? Could early education about mental health prevent workplace bullying and sexual harassment of those dealing with mental health difficulties in the workplace? Were current workplace adults taught about mental health at a young age?
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