Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Jack Russell
on May 10, 2021

It was my sophomore year of high school. The district had transitioned from its previous school model, moving my entire class and the class below up to the high school from our junior high. The school was crowded. Classes were full. Even though there was a whole class of younger students entering high school with us, I no longer felt like the big man on campus.

The advanced classes I was taking were hard, but it seemed like they were easy for a lot of my friends. It was the first time I truly struggled in school. I had a knee injury that kept me from enjoying the track and cross-country seasons like I had hoped. Even though I had a core group of amazing friends, I struggled to see where I fit in. 

As spring approached, my grades were suffering, all I wanted to do was sleep, and I wanted a way out. Not out of life—I just felt like I needed a break. I was diagnosed with depression, went through counseling, took medication, and ended up transferring schools the following fall. I had incredibly supportive and loving family and friends, but there were times that I felt alone, embarrassed, and as if I were the only person in the world who was suffering.

There’s Help and Hope
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM), it’s important for us all to remember that we’re not alone. Millions of people experience what I did. In fact, according to data compiled by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 20.6% of U.S. adults and 16.5% of youth aged six to 17 experience mental illness each year. To put that into perspective, one in five adults and one in six students struggle with mental illness.

No matter who you are, you are not alone. There is always a way to get help and so many resources available to us—now more so than ever before. That’s why NAMI continues to amplify the “You Are Not Alone” message for MHAM—an observance established in 1949 “to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness,” according to “Mental health is essential for a person's overall health. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can recover from mental disorders and live full and productive lives.”

Helping Yourself and Others
I challenge you to take your mental health and that of others seriously during the month of May and beyond. If you’re suffering, please get help. If a family member, friend, colleague, or student appears to be struggling, please encourage them to seek help. While famous people like NBA star Kevin Love—who reminds himself every day that “everyone is going through something that we can’t see”—have helped reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, it’s still hard to admit we need help. According to NAMI data, only 43.8% of adults and 50.6% of youth receive treatment for mental illness.

Let’s help ourselves and one another by taking advantage of the growing number of resources available:

I’m living proof that resources and treatment do help. After being diagnosed with clinical depression, I received treatment and finished high school strong. I then went on to graduate from one of the best journalism schools in the country. More importantly, I met the love of my life, with whom I’m now raising two amazing children. And I get to spend my days sharing how Gaggle helps provide safety and well-being to students all over the U.S.

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