The Power of Positive Education for Schools in America
The United States has grossly overlooked the importance of mental-health care and the well-being of students for the past several decades. As a result, violent and horrific massacres at schools like Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Stoneman Douglas High School have occurred in the U.S. Mental-health disorders have been referred to as one of the largest growing and most serious health epidemics in U.S. history.
There is a tremendous stigma surrounding people with mental disorders and most of the cases involving violence or anti-social behaviors are rare. Violent behaviors are frequently a common characteristic of those with anti-social personality disorder which can be hard to spot without the proper training on mental-disorders.
Mental disorders that are not often associated with an increased likelihood for violent or aggressive behaviors include: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. These are all very common mental disorders which are often unable to be physically seen because many people will try to hide it or simply don't understand it so they try to write it off.
Due to this, many of these individuals are written off as simply being too sensitive, overdramatic or weak. Sometimes, they are even written off altogether by their peers, teachers or even their families which could in many cases could cause their condition to worsen.
A large part of this issue is that many educators or care-takers aren’t trained to spot the potential indicators of a mental disorder, nor do they have the time to focus on each child the way that they might need while simultaneously fulfilling other responsibilities in a classroom. As a result, students who might exhibit potentially harmful or violent behaviors to themselves or others, are not given any early intervention before crisis or incident.
More than 5 million school children in United States will be diagnosed with a mental-health disorder at some point during their life. This might include conditions such as: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Bipolar I or II Disorder, ADHD and autism-spectrum disorder. Only 20% of children struggling with a mental disorder will pursue counseling, therapy, medication, or a mix of all three. 80% will not pursue any type of treatment at all.
One could argue that school psychologists, guidance counselors, or nurses could help, but most schools are either too small to afford a school psychologist or the school is too large give to each child the care that they might need. Many schools will often have only one nurse or school psychologist and a handful of guidance counselors accessible to hundreds or thousands of students. Other schools might not even be able to afford a school psychologist especially at religious or private schools which are granted limited financial assistance by the U.S. government.
One way that we can improve the mental health of children and students is by adopting some of the key components of Positive Education. The International Positive Education Network (IPEN) has the mission of helping students to flourish by teaching students the necessary skills for lifelong well-being, resiliency, and mindfulness from their very first day of school. The Positive Education movement also stands for encouraging schools to start teaching students how use their character strengths.
One school in Baltimore, Maryland is also integrating concepts from Positive Education with great success. They have successfully replaced detention with meditation which teaches students how to self-regulate and to focus themselves in a positive way. Since the adoption of this new school policy, they have not had a single suspension.
Many experts have speculated that by incorporating Positive Education into learning environments, we will enter an age of “new prosperity” which values well-being, physical and mental-health over wealth. Wealth which can be more sustainably attained by prioritizing your mental and physical well-being each day because you’ll be less likely to experience burnout.
Many celebrities are now choosing to speaking more candidly about their own mental health including: Fergie, Demi Lovato, Logic, Khalid, Selena Gomez, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Many of them staunchly advocating to the end the stigma surrounding mental health by providing the public with a better education and understanding of these disorders.
If more celebrities started to advocate for and became involved with the the movement for integrating Positive Education into American schools, then the government would feel even more pressure to make the necessary, positive changes to our educational system.
We also need to find a way to fund and assign the appropriate number of trained school psychologists to both public and private schools. This will help with increasing the number of early interventions before a child potentially exhibits violent behaviors towards themselves or their classmates.
My question is, if we could help the next generation of students to live the happiest and healthiest lives possible, then why aren't we making this a priority?
Without our children, I have no doubt that this country to would continue down the path towards further corruption, anger, and violence. But, the youths of this country are already proving that they aren't going to allow this to happen.
It’s time to say #neveragain by incorporating Positive Education into all of the schools in the United States. This will help to prevent horrific incidents in the future by increasing the amount of early interventions for students who could potentially become violent or dangerous to others.