To the Editor:
May is Mental Health Month, established in 1949 to spread the word about the importance of mental health and to combat the stigma associated with mental illness.
This is an appropriate time to ask community leaders and families in Alexandria to recognize the importance of mental health and the overall development of school-aged children. These are critical developing years, where children can find themselves entangled in a variety of challenges that can take a heavy toll upon them, and get their lives off track.
When children know that people care about them, they are more likely to be successful in school and less anxious and depressed. Supporting a child’s mental and emotional needs helps them think clearly, develop socially, build self-esteem and have a positive mental outlook.
Many times, however, adults brush off concerns as “kids simply being kids,” or adults can be indifferent. However children face all kinds of stresses and trauma growing up, and at the very time in adolescence when they really want to be just like everyone else, if they are perceived as different, including having a disability or suffering from mental illness, they are targeted for bullying.
We should be educating everyone that responding to mental health concerns is just as important as looking both ways before crossing the street.
Alexandria’s leaders need to continue to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of protecting the funding for those mental health programs.
I know Rob Krupicka led efforts to restore some funding for those much-need mental health services during this last budget cycle, and I thank him for his efforts. He knows how important those mental health programs are to those who need them.
And in the shadow of Virginia Tech, we cannot forget the devastating the impact of what happens when someone, who needs help and doesn’t get it, lashes out.
Michael J. Carrasco