Jim Minerd, a former Rio Rancho Public School health teacher and coach was recently interviewed about Breaking the Silence NM (BTS-NM) presentations held in his classroom, years ago:
What was your reasoning for inviting BTS-NM into your classroom?
I didn’t know very much about mental health, mental illness or suicide and was grateful there was a group of people with lived experience who would come and educate my students, and myself as well. I was a learner in the process, along with my class.
I saw my students struggle with so many issues that face young people and not really open up about them. (peer pressure, stress, addiction, mental illness and suicide) I wanted the BTS-NM presenters to help start the conversation about these stigmatized topics. Mental health is part of the NM state standards for health education.
You are no longer teaching, but I am impressed that you still remember what you learned and the impact the presentation had on your students.
Yes, the presentation helped clear up my own confusion about what mental illness is. When I learned it is a brain illness and nothing to be ashamed of, it helped me be less judgmental and more compassionate. I remember watching the students’ engagement with the stories in the film, and with the young person who shared his remarkable story of living with OCD.
It opened our eyes to the strength and tenacity of individuals who refuse to become a victim to an illness that is not their fault, and that treatment and self-awareness can make all the difference. What also helped was his becoming an advocate and educating others.
What is the takeaway from having had BTS-NM in your classroom?
I clearly remember one student approaching me to say that her dad had died by suicide. I know she would not have had the courage to share this with me, except for the presentation. Finding the courage to tell a trusted adult helps young people feel less alone in their struggles. The presentation opened that door.
Other takeaways: Get help, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Young people are going through so many changes as they develop, it can be hard for them to know if their feelings are typical or not. Having presentations like BTS-NM opens the conversation, educates, removes the shame of asking for help, and provides resources to direct a young person towards that help.