EDITORIAL: The silence ends here
For many teens, fitting in is the most important aspect of life.
Having the right clothes, the right hair, the right friends, the right boyfriend or girlfriend, all of it matters.
Having a mental illness is the opposite of that.
Teens suffering from any form of mental illness need extra support, people who will step up and say, we can help, it will be OK.
Eighty students from every district in York County came together Monday for a meeting of the York County Youth Mental Health Alliance to talk to professionals, community leaders and those who, like them, want to help eradicate the stigma of having a mental illness.
The teens are getting the word out through T-shirts, billboards and social media, saying people with mental illnesses are still people, and there are resources to help them, although there need to be more.
The students were encouraged to get the word out about programs that are available in their schools and in the community for anyone who needs help.
Kayli Ashenfelter, a senior at Kennard-Dale High School in the South Eastern School District, said she was unaware of the 211 referral service, which allows all Pennsylvania residents to call 211 are get resources on mental health. She said the service would help "get the word out" and spread awareness about mental-health issues. She turns 18 this week.
"People shouldn't be scared to ask for help," she said.
York County Common Pleas Judge Todd Platts fielded questions about LGBT youth, who are more likely than their peers to have depression and to attempt suicide. He said education is the key to ensuring LGBT people can live their lives without a stigma and with all their rights intact.
"These were issues that weren't openly discussed when we were your age," Platts told the students. "(Being LGBT) is not a choice. ... It's who you are."
Platts and the other panel members urged the teens to meet with their state and federal representatives, as well as with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, to make their concerns known.
"You can have a huge impact," Platts predicted.
Teens who are looking out for their vulnerable peers are showing a maturity the rest of us would do well to emulate. Let's make sure they have the resources to continue the work.
And let's help spread the motto for the alliance: #TSEH, The Silence Ends Here.