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Mental Health in Wisconsin Teens: let's talk about it

By Ashley Nowak

This time of year can be tough. Holidays are over, it is frigid cold, and summer seems so far away. With these despairing thoughts, it is the perfect time to talk about mental health. 

According to the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior 2017 Survey (conducted by the Department of Public Instruction), 27% of Wisconsin high school students feel depressed, almost 40% suffer from anxiety, and 16.6% of students have self harmed. These numbers may be startling but they are our reality. 

It may not be enjoyable but talking about it is super important. While it seems easier to suppress our own feelings or ignore the friend who has been acting different, doing this is only harder in the long run. Instead, I encourage you speak your truths out loud even if it seems uncomfortable. The more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes.  And while our statistics are for Wisconsin teens, this is not just a Wisconsin issue. This is an everyone issue. We all have our days, weeks, months, or even years when life seems too difficult and/or overwhelming.  But if we don’t talk about it, our mental health concerns can turn from a light grey cloud to a dark looming storm.

So try picking up the phone, sending an email, or shooting a text. Check in with your friend, sibling, parent, or colleague. Talk about mental health. It is as normal as we make it. 

Here are some ideas for conversations starters:

If you are the one struggling:

“It’s been a tough day/week/month/year, is it OK if I tell you about it?”

“This may be tough to hear, but I need to talk about [   ] .” 

“This is hard for me to talk about, but I feel it is important that I tell you about my [    ]”

“I want to be honest about how I am feeling.…”

If you’re checking in with a friend:

“I just wanted to let you know I am here for you.”

“If you’re ever going through a difficult time, I hope you know I am always willing to listen.”

“Do you need someone to talk to?” or “Do you need someone to listen?”

“I care about you.”

Or list a specific thing you can do for that person and ask them if you can do that. Sometimes people do not know what they need until you offer it.

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