An initiative spearheaded by Hillary Clinton is focused on a mental illness curriculum for school-aged children and teenagers across the country. Being a person with bipolar, I thought this was terrific at first. It is a great idea, at first glance, since the mental health of the youth of our nation is getting worse. The National Alliance on Mental illness says suicide is the third leading cause of death for children 10-14 years old. It is the second leading cause of death for people from 15-24 years old. NAMI shows in their current research 90 percent of the people aged 10-24 years old who died by suicide, had an underlying mental illness.

The need for mental illness education is in great demand

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. The statistics mentioned here and in research are enough for concern. We need to have something done about it. But I do not understand why Hillary Clinton is focusing on only two when there are more than two–hundred classified forms of mental illnesses according to MHA.

Why a national mental illness curriculum with only depression and anxiety?

According to National Association of Mental Illness, 20 percent of teenagers from 13-18 years old live with a mental illness, 11 percent of youth have a mood disorder, and 10 percent have behavior and conduct disorders. And of course, each of those percentages includes a plethora of mental illnesses such as ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD, anorexia nervosa, or antisocial personality.

There are too many youths who have a mental illness, besides depression and anxiety, to totally ignore them.

Depression And Anxiety are something to acknowledge. But what about bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, dementia and autism, to name a few? If I, as a former middle school teacher, were to get behind a comprehensive education plan, the curriculum would have to include all known mental illnesses.

I know I had students who suffered from eating disorders as well as depression. Towards the end of my teaching career, I had one student who was bipolar and taking some of the same medicine I was on. The other student had autism and a few other disorders. Both students seemed left out and almost awkward with their peers because they appeared so different on the outside.

If I had curriculum back then to teach on such disorders, I believe it could have changed their lives.

The fallout from Hillary Clinton's curriculum on just depression and anxiety

I am afraid if children and adults learn about only two mental illnesses, there will be a new stigma to come out of this nationwide initiative. We will have generations growing up thinking depression and anxiety are the only mental illnesses in this world. Or they will be even more afraid than people are now of the other mental illnesses. A tenth grader may meet someone with an eating disorder. This high school student with the depression/anxiety curriculum will be confused and not understand why this person is having an eating problem.

And when there is a mass shooting, a sixth grader in Anytown, USA will think to him or herself, “The shooter had a mental illness. It must have been depression and/or anxiety.”

You might have thought I was stereotyping. “All mass shooters are mental.” “They are crazy.” “They have bipolar.” “The shooter was a psychopathic.”

I get so tired of hearing, in the news, these same statements describing a mass shooter by the media and first responders who have no formal training in diagnosing someone with a mental illness. There is no mental health requirement in order to be a mass shooter or a murderer at all.

The truth of mental illness

As the result of research accomplished this year, the Treatment Advocacy Center discovered the following statistics on mentally ill people:

  • 58% experienced at least one form of violence;
  • 28% experienced at least two forms of violence;
  • 7% experienced all three forms of violence: violent victimization, violence against oneself and violence against others; and
  • Inmates with mental illnesses have a five times higher rate at which they are victimized sexually behind bars as compared to inmates with no mental illness.

I believe it is crucial to educate our citizens about mental illness.

The best way to begin this is with our students. In order to decrease stigma and truly educate people, professionals from the psychiatric field, as well as educators, need to sit down, take their time and hammer out a correct, well-thought-out curriculum which alleviates stigma and ignorance for our students today and our citizens tomorrow.