According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point. The same organization lists suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death among persons 10 to 34. And while it doesn’t follow that all mental illness leads to suicide, it is a common thread among at least 90 percent of suicide cases.
So the way Simran Singh sees it, maybe we should be talking about it more.
Simran is not a doctor. She’s a 16-year-old junior at Southwest High School, but she has become noteworthy for making certain her voice is heard when it comes to confronting the stigmas attached to mental health issues.
In her third year as a member of the HOSA-Future Health Professionals Club on campus, Singh has made an impact on the community by speaking at numerous public events and informing others of ways to reduce the stigmas surrounding individuals who suffer from mental illnesses.
With a focal point revolving around prevention and early intervention measures, Singh has participated in Southwest’s Soaring Above Stigma mental health pilot program. By striving to help others before they go into crisis, she hopes to help decrease the risk factors that affect those who struggle with mental health issues.
“Stigma exists because we don’t want to be excluded for something that we may have, or that we may feel,” Singh said. “We are all people just trying to do our best, and it is important to talk about our mental health openly. It may be a scary thing, but we have to not be afraid and not let our fears stop us.”
Singh has coordinated with Imperial County Behavioral Health Services by setting up booths at Friday night football games to reach out to students who may be struggling with mental issues. By speaking out on campus during school hours, Singh has also encouraged young people to get involved in social clubs offered on campus to help decrease personal isolation. During annual suicide prevention week, Singh has collaborated with community health workers to help spark the conversation regarding what can be done to help those battling depression and suicidal tendencies.
Recently speaking as a guest on Imperial Valley’s local KXO radio station, Singh reiterated key points of her desire to help diminish the stigma surrounding mental health.
“We have to talk about mental health consistently, constantly bring it to the forefront, and not let it be forgotten,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to do what feels right, and don’t be afraid of what people are going to say. ... You never know who you could help by starting the discussion.”
In addition to her appearance on KXO, Singh has spoken on a panel at a state leadership conference in March in Sacramento, led a student workshop consisting of more than 150 people regarding mental health awareness, and delivered a speech at the annual Celebration of Education for the Imperial County Office of Education. As president of Southwest’s Class of 2020, Singh also spends time attending to issues concerning her class cabinet.
In the future, Singh plans to continue her efforts of keeping the foundation of mental health awareness strong. With goals of reaching out to other campuses in Imperial Valley, including middle schools, she hopes to start providing information and support to students at a younger age, targeting stigmas earlier.
As a rising star in the community, Singh is committed to making sure the individual stars of others keep burning bright by defying the darkness mental illness and other issues may impose along the way.