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Few Central Florida schools offer mental illness education

Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder — a roller coaster of intense emotions and profound fear of abandonment — she has learned to think of her emotional life as weather. The passing storms can’t hurt the sky, she likes to say, but they do cause her to seek shelter.

Few Central Florida schools offer mental illness education

by Kate Santich
Orlando Sentinel

Megan Coduto’s first symptoms of mental illness came when she was 2.

“I was still in diapers when my mother placed me on the counter in the bathroom, and I looked in the mirror and said, ‘I hate me,'” she tells a group of students at Edgewater High School. “My mother knew that was not normal.”

The story of Coduto’s personal journey — through self-loathing, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mania, depression, addiction and, ultimately, recovery — brings a somber silence over the room as students listen, rapt. Though it may seem to some like adult subject matter, the presentation is part of a growing but uneven effort throughout the state to help kids recognize warning signs in themselves and others and to tell them how to get help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of mental illnesses develop by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24, perhaps triggered by the hormonal surge of puberty. Troubled, confused and isolated, adolescents, teens and young adults are at significant risk for suicide — the third-leading cause of death for their age group.

Early intervention, experts warn, is critical.

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