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It's A Disease NOT a Decision

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Eric Jones, Creator of Writing for the Soul Workshop™ helps a participant.

Imagine what would happen if you saw a teen athlete suffer a severe compound fracture, and then overheard the coach say "just shake it off... the pain is all in your head anyway." Or perhaps a father and son talking about the child's recent cancer diagnosis, deciding not to treat the cancer because "I don't want my friends to make fun of me for getting sick." For most of us, these conversations would seem ridiculous, because we don't shame people who have an accident, or are diagnosed with cancer or diabetes; in fact, we rally around these individuals, providing comfort and support.

Sadly, these mindsets don't hold true when it comes to our mental and emotional diseases, especially for children. Most people don't think that children can suffer from things like depression; the reality is that 1 in 5 children will experience depression and other types of mental illnesses, but only 22% will receive treatment. In many areas in the United States, there is a shortage of mental health professionals, with some states having only 1 mental health provider per 1,000 people. Those who do receive treatment are stigmatized if they talk about their condition. People with cancer are sick... but people with a mental illness are "crazy" making it shameful to admit and address mental illness.

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Between the stigma of mental illness, and a lack of access to mental health professionals, youth face serious long term impacts due to mental illness, especially when it is unaddressed.

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Mental Health has a direct long term correlation to physical health. According to Health.gov "Mental health disorders also have a serious impact on physical health and are associated with the prevalence, progression, and outcome of some of today’s most pressing chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mental health disorders can have harmful and long-lasting effects—including high psychosocial and economic costs—not only for people living with the disorder, but also for their families, schools, workplaces, and communities."

It is time that we start treating mental illness with the same attitudes as other long term, catastrophic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. We need to ensure that youth who experience traumatic events like bullying, violent crime and natural disasters receive ALL the treatment that they need, adding mental triage to the physical triage we are familiar with. We need to encourage our children to practice good MENTAL hygiene, in addition to taking care of their physical bodies. Finally, we need to change the perception of mental illness away from some kind of shameful defect to what it truly is, a true physical problem that requires professional treatment, and long term support.

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We offer Writing for the Soul Workshop™ as a writing as therapy program. Our core program philosophy is based on the fact that powerful emotions have a powerful voice; and that when we get what is on the inside out, we take control of those feelings, and make smarter behavior choices as a result. Donors help us to reach youth actively engaged in at-risk behavior at no cost to them or their families. We understand that hurt people hurt people. No child is born bad. Help us continue our work around the US. Click here to donate today.