How Mental Illness Has Touched My Life, by Britney Prickett

How Mental Illness Has Touched My Life, by Britney Prickett

Unfortunately, Fowler Elementary teacher Britney Prickett knows too well the havoc that mental illness can create. Here, she divulges her family’s battle with mental illness and explains how she has learned to use her role as a teacher to create a safe environment for all students.

 

I have been personally affected by mental illness from an early age. I was 10 when I was informed of my Aunt Rita’s suicide. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was a child, but she never received treatment.

Fast forward to when I was a junior in high school. I was our Sophomore Class Princess and had the honor of being recognized at our Homecoming football game. Later that night, I was awakened to learn the news of my Uncle Randall’s suicide. He, too, had been diagnosed with depression at a young age.

But that’s not all. In 2015, during the summer after my first year of teaching, I awoke to a text from Lance, my younger brother who was 25. The text was a screenshot of a text his girlfriend sent him, encouraging Lance to kill himself.

He did. He had been suffering from P.T.S.D. due to his time in the Navy.

My experience with mental illness is tragic, but it seems to be all too common in today’s society. Unfortunately, if teachers and children had available resources and strategies for coping with these issues, many lives could be changed for the better or even saved.

I believe the most fundamental of basic human rights is our mental health. This is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. And yes, mental health issues do affect public education classrooms.

It’s more common than you think. One in five youths have a mental health condition but fewer than half of these kids will receive the services they need. Without proper diagnoses and treatment, students’ mental health can negatively affect their ability to learn and develop. These kids are in our public school classrooms. These students can become violent and defiant in a classroom setting.

Often, the beginning of many mental health conditions occurs in adolescence. Half of students who will later be diagnosed with a mental health problem will experience its onset by the age of 14.

As a teacher, it is my responsibility to advocate for my students and fellow teachers.

I believe early intervention is crucial. Mental illness does not discriminate. It should be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner -- not after it’s too late.

Teaching in public education is my opportunity to give every student a safe learning environment where they can thrive. I build meaningful relationships with each kid and create a level of trust so they know they can trust me in a non-judgmental environment.

During a summer professional development, I learned about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. This program supports mental health in schools with federal funding for training of school staff. Through this association, I have gained knowledge and become more aware of the signs in students who show symptoms of mental illness ranging from mild anxiety to severely emotionally disturbed.

To help, I donate to NAMI to support its work in addressing child and youth mental health. I receive monthly information on mental health in schools. I also take the initiative to communicate with my school counselor, nurse, and special education teachers to find coping methods unique to each child I teach.