What’s wrong with this picture?

A while back, I had a conversation with the person in charge of the mental health policies and procedures, programs and staff for a particular school district. I was surprised to discover during that conversation that this person didn’t know that they can actually recommend services for a student that is at-risk for self harm. (I later emailed them the legislation.) This is tragic news since this person was making decisions that were affecting tens of thousands of students (and families) and were operating under the wrong assumptions.

A few weeks ago, I was assisting an alumni with helping her friend get in touch with someone on the suicide prevention hotline. When I called a human didn’t pick up the phone on the other end. Instead, it was a long series of menus from a robot asking what my mental health state was. (Also it was really difficult to find the text line–something that most teens prefer.) I was so frustrated at the end and couldn’t help but wonder how someone on the edge might feel?

I can’t tell you how many times district leaders say there isn’t much they can do to promote our course, that their hands are tide because schools work independently from each other. A sovereign place. And the principals? They parrot the same.

We are doing it wrong.

Years of insulating ourselves with rules and red tape, worried that someone might sue has trapped us. This isn’t the players fault either. There is a regime in place that none of them probably had any part of in building (but perhaps reinforcing). The good ones are frustrated to no end. They lie awake at night wondering How do we fix this?

We are in the worst mental health crisis in human history and COVID has only amplified this. Yet, we are still hoping that trying the same things that got us here in the first place are going to bring about different results.

They won’t.

That is why I am so pleased of the work we are doing at Pivot Adventure. At first, we wanted to be like everyone else but then we realized we don’t want to do it like everyone else. It takes guts to stand up and say, “Follow me.” But I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with parents and students that this experience was a godsend. They had felt trapped, hopeless and unsure what to do and then out of thin air our flyer popped up in their inbox.

The bottom line here is that we need deep radical reform in the mental health sector. We have rules and regulations for schools and not near enough for social media giants. We can’t keep doing the same thing we have always done and think things will magically fix themselves. That is what got us here in the first place.

Acting on fear closes the doors of possibility. It never opens it.