Relationships with school counselors, stigma around mental health, and responding to suicidal friends are just a few of the complex issues brought up by Montgomery County students on Tuesday night’s student mental health forum. Over forty students from across Montgomery County gathered on February 6, united by their concern of mental health.
Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Matthew Post hosted this forum, giving students the chance to share their experiences and voice their concerns directly to the SMOB and to other students. “The number one thing kids can do to destigmatize these issues is to the have open and frank dialogues”, Post explains. “For too long mental health has been this taboo issue.” School counselors and teachers were in attendance as well, eager to join the conversation on mental health.
Dr. Christina Conolly, Division of Psychological Services Director, started off the discussion presenting an informational powerpoint on the fundamentals of mental health. “1 in 5 students experience a mental health disorder”,Christina Conolly said, sharing the importance of mental health discussion, signs of depression, and how to respond. “Tell a trusted adult”, is her valued advice as she warns that students should always take action if a friend tells them they’re suicidal. Conolly wisely warns that it is better to risk a friendship than to risk a life.
Following her presentation was a Q and A session where students discussed and heard advice from Conolly, Post, and Dr. Jonathan Brice, the MCPS associate superintendent of student and family support and engagement. Students discussed resources in schools, revealing a large variety of experiences at both extremes. On one hand, a student recounted when she was turned away from her counselor office. Yet on the other end, another student was immediately taken to crisis center after talking to his counselor, an experience in which he called “intimidating and sudden”. Other discussion points included treating suicide as a joke, parental consent, and reforming health curriculums to better discuss mental health.
“Tonight was great- it was nice knowing how different students think at different schools”, says Khava Tsarni, an 11th grader from Watkins Mill HS. Tsarni brought up the issue of ESOL resources in languages which Dr. Conolly and Dr. Brice assured are plentiful. A counselor had even chimed in, telling an anecdote in which she used a translator during a session with one of her students.
The night gave a unique chance for students to come together and discuss mental health, one of the most pressing issues for students. Post comments, “I hope this conversation will spark something, but it will not be the only conversation we have this year or in future years.” To those who were unable to attend the forum, Post plans to continue with these discussions and hopes “to have way more of these forums.”
To learn more about how interested students can advocate for mental health reform, students can check here: https://www.mcrsga.com/single-post/MentalHealthOpportunities and stay updated with MCR at mcrsga.com.
Written by Amanda Chu
Photo courtesy of Bethesda Beat
Published by PR Department