Unacknowledged and untreated mental illness among high school students is a serious problem in our nation’s schools. 1 in 5 high school students have a diagnosable mental health disorder but a minimum of 60% will go untreated. 90% of people who die by suicide had a treatable mental health disorder.
According to the California Health Interview Survey, there were 57,000 high school students in 2014 that were likely to have had serious psychological distress in the month before taking the survey. Inaction can have deadly consequences.
In Los Angeles, one in six high school students consider suicide; on average, 15 youths between 12 and 17 die each year, per the Coroner’s statistics. Among those who die are students in the L.A. Unified School District, the nation’s second- largest public school district, which serves predominantly low- income Latinos and African Americans who experience a myriad of stressors at home and in their neighborhoods. However, suicide does not discriminate, it has also become an epidemic in private schools due to the stress students feel in maintaining a “perfect image.”
The CDC just reported that suicide is the number 1 cause of death in 10-14 year olds and is now the 2nd leading cause of death for 14-24 year olds. Suicide numbers keep growing, proving this is an epidemic that must be addressed. Whether initiated by teachers or the students themselves, early intervention sets students up for lifelong success.
About Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation
In 2013, Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation was founded by Ron Silverman, after losing his only son, Matthew, to suicide in 2006. In order to turn this tragedy to something positive, we formed the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation with the goal of combating this unspeakable tragedy.
MSMF was the first nonprofit to bridge the gap in the Southern California adolescent community by bringing the best mental health/suicide prevention programs in the nation at no cost to schools. We have built a record of success in offering quality care in communities where stigma or poverty limits access. In our inaugural year of programming (2015-16), more than 7,000 youths were reached. Most schools stated that it was the most engaged they had ever seen their students. On average, after our presentations, three students seek help that same day for serious suicide ideation. With the new partners of MSMF, we were hoping in the 2016-17 to reach a minimum of 18,000 youth and the possibility of closer to 25,000 students. We have now succeeded in that goal and will surpass it.
In the 2017-18 school year, MSMF will be rolling out the mental health curriculum called, Behind Happy Faces, into 63 diverse, low-income ninth grade classrooms in ten schools to reach an estimated 2,128 students in the 2017-18 school year. Simultaniously, we will still be serving numerous other schools through our various other prevention programs.