My name is Della Huntley, and I’m a ninth-grader at Baxter Academy.

In my years as a teenager, a constant, overarching problem has been mental illnesses. From within my friend group to television shows like “13 Reasons Why,” it is an issue that is impossible to ignore. That is why I decided to focus on it for my school research project.

Statistics back up my experiences. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 49.5 percent of adolescents will have a mental illness by the time they turn 18.

The study involved adolescents ages 13-18. With almost half of the teenage population in this category, it makes sense to expect that there should be required education on mental illnesses. But when I researched the required standards for mental health education in Maine, I was shocked to find that there were none. When I looked a little further, I found that New York is implementing legislation in July that will make it the first (and only) state to require mental health education in all of its schools. It is vital that Maine consider following this example and require schools to educate their students about mental illnesses.

Many adults blame teenagers or our phones for our rising generational levels of anxiety and depression, but I think it is also very important to acknowledge another factor in this equation: that we depend on dramatized television shows and various social media platforms to give us information that our schools should be providing. In this world of social media, it’s easy for misinformation to spread and stigma to grow. If we could take conversations on mental illnesses out of screens and into our classrooms, we could open doors to the ones that need it most and help better support our community.

Della Huntley

South Portland

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