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On May 16, 2017, I had the opportunity to host an on the table initiative with a group of young students from Drake Elementary school where we discussed issues associated with mental illness and addiction in our communities.

I was so amazed as to how much these young students knew yet had so many unanswered questions with no resources or guidance to help some of them figure out what they see, hear and experience everyday.

One student asked what was the difference between suicide and homicide? Another student asked what is mental illness and how do you recognize it or what does it do? Once the students were explained and given examples of mental illness disorders from depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, they were able to relate and describe what they have witnessed in their homes, neighborhoods and school.

As the students discussed among themselves in groups of 5-8; the ultimate question was asked of all the students that changed the tone of the group discussion. You could feel the tension rising and hesitation to respond when asked, "Have you ever felt like harming yourself or felt depressed to the point you fake an illness to avoid having to get out of bed?"

Several students including teachers raised their hands to show in agreement of Yes. Some students responded with they have been bullied in school which warrants them to want to skip school or class. Teachers admitted to being bullied as a student. Students disclosed a level of depression that surpasses the average adult state of mind. When asked have they told anyone the response overall was NO in fear of they would be judged, talked about, labeled as crazy and strange enough the parents/guardian ignored their cry for help and passed it off as if the student was exhibiting attention seeking behavior.

I say this with great sincerity, it is so important to listen to our youth they have a lot to say for they witness quite a bit at home, school and within their neighborhoods as well as from their peers; which impacts them mentally. It takes 5 minutes to stop listen and obey to the cry from a child. Today I employee every adult to take time out to be observant of any child in your presence. Listen to what the child has to say; make conversation to learn how their day was, what they experience, witnessed etc....

From the mouth of a child to the ears of an adult can make a world of difference when the adult listens that child.

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