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The Hood Magazine

Impacting our Youth- A Mental Health Course Proposal

Mar 29, 2019 12:58PM ● By The Hood Magazine

Spencer Mellow was a gifted artist who courageously took on the stigma of mental health and attended the University of Minnesota with the goal of becoming an Art Therapy teacher. In March of 2015, the world lost this gentle, artistic soul, and I lost my significant other, which shifted my life mission.  I knew that I had to continue on, in his honor.

Hello, My name is Tiffany Thoelke. I am a local Sioux Empire mother and activist working toward increasing awareness and education about mental health. Through my personal experiences, this tragic loss, and my role as a mother, came forth an idea—to implement a mental health course and provide more education to our youth.         

It is said that mental illness can remain unknown by our loved ones more often than not. I feel strongly, and the science supports that, without the right mental health resources and tools, our youth may find themselves unprepared, in a struggle at some point in their lives. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the prevalence of mental illness: “approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.”

As parents and community members, we often ask ourselves how we can provide our children with better than we had. Currently we see the loss of our youth at alarming numbers. I believe the implementation of mental health support in the form of a required course in public schools, can play a most crucial role in giving our children and our society a better future.

Perhaps mental health education and support, at a younger age, particularly the start of middle school, could decrease the future heartache and loss of the ones we love. I imagine a healthier society coming forth from experiencing an educational course focusing on the deeper issues our youth is facing, while providing the essential tools and guidance toward confidence, loving oneself, maintaining a sense of connection, and a healthy self worth.  With true attention to mental health, we will offer our youth the realization that they are not alone, along with the comfort in knowing that we ALL, at one time or another experience difficulties.

The groundwork has begun for me. By manifesting awareness, education and action, I am working with our local school board, The Department of Education, and the media to begin the conversation of a proposed mental health course for our students in the Sioux Empire.

If you would like to join in support of this cause, please contact me: Tiffany Thoelke at [email protected] or 605-254-6055.

Save the dates: Come join SoDaks for Mandatory Mental Health Legislation and Education (SMMHLE) event for conversation and coffee: Sunday, April 14th from 1-3 pm at Icon Lounge. The next mental health work session is open to the public and scheduled for May 1st at 3pm at the Instructional Planning Center.