Service Learning And Mental Health Crisis

My Service-Learning Project addresses the issue of the mental health crisis that high schoolers and college students cope with. Specifically, depression, anxiety, and suicide. Those that experience these issues are all around us and we don’t even know. This issue has a very personal effect on me for I, at a point in time, suffered from depression. I pushed everything I loved away, and I would spend most time alone. While completing this project, I realize that I am not alone. Many other people go through what I went through and, in some cases, end in ways that are unimaginable. Not only are teen depression/anxiety/suicide rates shocking, but they are on the rise. The research I conducted amazed me and made me realize that this issue needs much more attention than it’s getting. More than 20% of teens are depressed and 70% are being untreated.

For my Service-Learning Plan, I focused in on music therapy and its contributions. Music helped me get through my struggles and I believe that it can help my community and other communities as well. However, if I could do this project again, I would help music therapy address not only mental health issues, but those with disabilities and those who experienced trauma. This project helped me realize that anyone can help their community if they put their mind to something. I realized that I could have an impact on those that need help.

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A teen takes their own life every 100 minutes. For every person who has died from suicide, 20 more people will have attempted to kill themselves. What can we do to change this? Music therapy is needed in order to help those with mental health issues (i.e. depression and anxiety) as it could help address the mental health crisis that high schoolers and college students cope with. For my action plan, I’d like to implement music therapy into school guidance systems. This plan is incredibly important since suicide amount teens has nearly tripled since the 1940’s. Students in school constantly face social, academic, and spiritual pressures. Studies have shown that 50% of mental health diagnosis’s have started before the ages of 15. Music therapy can not only change those unhealthy, but also future generations.

The topic I selected is the impact of mental health issues, specifically depression and anxiety, on high schoolers and college students. Around 20% of teens (1 in 5) will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Of that 20%, as many as 70% are left untreated. Additionally, “more than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function.” According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6.3 million people from the ages 12-17 have an anxiety disorder. Depression and anxiety can lead to teen suicide, substance abuse, and even school shooters.

Suicide is, in many ways, the most alarming of these three outcomes. For ages 10-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death (road accidents being first). Students in grades 9-12, stage approximately 3,040 suicide attempts every day. According to The Parent Resource Program, “more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined. How can we stand by and watch our friends and family suffer from debilitating diseases? We must find a way to not only decrease the number of teens and young adults committing suicide, but we must also find a way to help with depression and anxiety as well.

My Purpose Of The Service Learning Project

The Ronald McDonald House is a temporary residence that provides support for critically ill or seriously injured children and their families. The purpose of the service learning project was to collect three toys and explain the development of the items collected. Each item was selectively handpicked by my daughter and I. I traveled to the store with my 9-year-old daughter and we picked out items that we thought would benefit little girls and boys between the ages of 0-12 that would bring them joy and comfort during the holiday season. We thought about the little girls who see themselves as princesses and shows a developed sense of self-assuredness and confidence in their looks. We surveyed the isles of the store and looked at what most children gravitated to and selected the items accordingly. I collected stuffed animals, puzzles, and a board game. With this experience, it will enhance my social and cognitive development when working in patient care.

Infant and toddlers love to touch and feel the surfaces of stuffed toys, feeling their soft fur and hard eyes. I chose stuffed animals because it can provide the development sensory skills and encourage social and emotional growth. According to Erikson trust versus mistrust, “infants learn whether or not the world can be trusted to satisfy basic needs” through nourishment, warmth, and physical contact (Berger, 2005, p.193). They begin to perceive the different colors, sizes, and textures of things around them. As the infant gets older, they’ll start reaching for and grabbing the animals as they play with them. The stuffed animal allows the child to grasp something when they are feeling scared, happy or sad. Children often express emotions and thoughts while playing with the object that they might not be able to communicate using words. Stuffed animals can help infants and toddlers cope with separation anxiety. When my child was about two years old, I would use the stuffed animals to help her learn to be independent and not be afraid of being alone for a while. Using stuffed toys to teach the child how to speak, how to get along with others and develop their sense of compassion and care for others. This will show the child that he or she is loved and develop trust.

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When a child is playing with a puzzle, we can expect four basic skills to be built. Physical skills allow the child to hold puzzle pieces and sort them together. Social skill develops conversations that asks query on how to put the puzzle together effectively. Emotional skills allow the child to develop an emotional sense of how to combat being overwhelmed. Cognitive skills help solve problems of the puzzle. Learning is rapid. Piaget called middle childhood “the time for concrete operational thought” which characterized new logical abilities (Berger, 2005, p.319). He acknowledged that children advance step by step (Berger, 2005, p.320). Playing with puzzles requires the child to grasp pieces of different shapes and sizes and manipulate them to fit in the appropriate slot. Through this task children develop muscle movement and skillfulness of their fine motor skills. They learn patience and slowly work through the puzzle before reaching the end. Children work cooperatively to complete a puzzle they engage in conversation. Berger describes school-age children as “great learners, using logic, developing strategies, and accumulating knowledge” (p.331). They develop a strategy to solve the puzzle, and help each other solve problems as they occur. Cognitive learning is characterized by organizing ideas and utilizing knowledge through evaluation. When a child play with puzzles, they learn how to strategize and recognize how pieces fit together to complete the picture. Playing with puzzles uses critical thinking skills to solve problems. Choosing the puzzle as an item has it developmental benefits which helps the child to better understand and work together in the world around them.

Most adolescents want to be around friends having fun and enjoy spending time together. This bolsters their self-esteem. Board games build learning opportunities. The adolescent’s competitiveness urges new skills and concepts. Board games help people to interact, socialize and have fun. One of the great aspects of playing board games is that we learn on multiple levels. This is beneficial to adolescents who learn key skills such as social skills and how to behave, critical thinking and the ability to focus. As a young adult, I remember when my family and I would play Monopoly. I was able to read directions and provide priceless memories through laughter and fun. The child gains a sense of responsibility by learning how to pay debts and build wealth. Piaget formed the cognitive theory by explaining how the way children think changes with time and experience which can affect developmental behavior (Berger, 2005, p.43). Playing this game teaches ethics and values, academic skills, and the importance of playing by the rules.

Each family can be as festive as need be for the holidays. It’s not about the money or expense of the gift, it is about the games and items that are being given that can assist on building on family time, bonding, and building interpersonal relationships. This activity will create priceless memories for the families and provide comfort and peace during their stay. Being able to give to families during difficult occasion shows the families that someone cares and is thinking of them. The families or individuals don’t have to be alone and don’t have to be miserable during the season. The stuffed animals, puzzles, and board game allows a child to dream and express their inner dreams by conveying the message anything is possible if you put your mind to it. The children feel sense of security, love, and respect that someone is thinking of them, bringing about peace, comfort and satisfaction of the mind.

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