Mental Health Accessibility in New Mexico is About to Improve, Thanks to This High School Teen

Mental health is such a buzzword right now. It’s finally getting the recognition and attention it deserves! There’s still so much work to be done in the world with the overall aspect of mental health and the accessibility to it, and a high school student in New Mexico not only realizes this but is working towards changing it. She writes, 

My goal is to create a local nonprofit dedicated to prioritizing the mental health of adolescent athletes. This is a need I see in our community as I and many other adolescent athletes in New Mexico suffer from mental health issues related to our sports. After extensively looking, I don’t feel there are any other organizations doing the work locally (or even nationally) to fill this need. 

My goal is to have three branches of this organization-

1. Outreach: This branch would be responsible for creating a new coaches and athletes curriculum dedicated to improving athletes’ well-being in sports. This branch would also be in charge of spreading this curriculum to school teams and other private club sports organizations in the community.

2. Advocacy: This branch would be in charge of creating legislative and policy teams in certain organizations. For example, one idea I have is to reform APS health classes in how it approaches mental health subjects and specifically nutrition.

3. Community: This branch would be responsible for running the organization’s social media pages and creating a website with resources for athletes themselves to access. I’ve already started on the website and hope to finish it soon.

While this is a huge project to take on and one that very well may not be successful, it’s an idea I’ve had for a long time and I finally feel brave enough to approach it. There are some logistical aspects I’m not sure how to go about but I’m willing to put in the work and learn from others in order to attempt to make this a success.

I have the support of a community service coordinator at my school and I have connections with multiple mental health professionals who could help. I have a fair amount of time to commit to this project and I’ve done extensive academic research regarding adolescent athletes’ mental health. I plan to connect with more athletic professionals in my state to promote this curriculum I hope to design for adolescent sports organizations. I also plan to connect with government resources to make this a certified non-profit in my state.

What We Can And Cannot Control

I know the majority of people are familiar with the graphics or the exercises where you write down two different categories. 

Things I can control. 

Things I cannot control. 

You then list out everything on one side of the things that are in your control. Your thoughts, your attitude, your opinions, your actions. 

On the other side, you write down the things you cannot control. Others opinions, thoughts, comments. The traffic, the weather, politics, etc. 

It can be very therapeutic to take some time writing these down so that we can realize what is in our control and what is out of our control. 

However, I think we oftentimes only associate these things with other adults in our lives. We are thinking about our colleagues and neighbors. However, as teachers and parents, we often do not apply this principle to our students and kids. And I know that it’s true because I also felt like I was above it all and could control my children. In fact, I felt like I had control of my children. But do I really have control over their thoughts and actions? Absolutely not. 

So what do I have then? Boundaries. Influence.

Because I cannot control my children’s actions and thoughts, I have to set clear, firm boundaries for them to act within. I have the responsibility to teach and influence them.

For example. My daughter and I often play in the front yard, but we live on a road just busy enough that she cannot ride her bike or play in the street because there are too many cars. I cannot control how my daughter moves her body, what thoughts she has on the road, or her desire to see what it’s like out there. These are all completely up to her. 

However, I can have a good influence on her by teaching her the safety of the road, letting her know what the dangers are, and setting a physical boundary for her so that she cannot cross into the road. 

I still have no control over her thoughts or actions, but I’ve taken the proper precautionary steps to keep her safe! 

The same goes for when you’re teaching in a kindergarten classroom. If a child throws a huge tantrum and starts throwing objects across the room, can you control her emotions, actions, or decisions? No. You really do not have control over those. 

Can you influence her, show support, set boundaries, and control your own actions and emotions? YES! 

I’ve been using this strategy with friends and family when unwanted and unsolicited comments arise, by reminding myself that these individuals have the right to act, think, and say what they want, but it’s my responsibility to control my own thoughts and actions in response. It was a mind-blowing revelation that it can also be applied to younger children as well! 

Yes, we do need to set boundaries and stay a good influence because that’s what a good teacher, parent, or role model does. However, it’s relieving to know that these children’s actions and thoughts are not a reflection of you. They are not your responsibility to control, they are just your responsibility to react in a professional way to guide them to safety. 

Have you had this revelation of control with your class and kids? Did it help you while teaching to have a sense of self-awareness when it comes to control?