In recent years, the issue of mental health has gained public attention, particularly in the context of educational institutions. Countryside High School (CHS) hosted its first Mental Health Awareness month this May.
According to Susan Meadow, School Psychologist on campus, the event was an astounding success and the school had received a lot of positive feedback. With their proactive approach, CHS is striving to provide a supportive environment that promotes the well-being and mental health of its students by fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue and destigmatizing mental health. The pressures and demands of academic life, social relationships, and personal development can contribute to the exacerbation of mental health problems, this being rampant especially among young students.
Organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) know the importance of youth mental health.
The “Children’s Mental Health” section of their website states, “only about 20% of children with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders receive care from a specialized mental health care provider.”
The CDC encourages providing accessible mental health services, promoting mental health awareness, education, fostering a supportive campus environment, and reducing associated stigma, educational institutions can help students seek help and receive appropriate support. Additionally, self-care practices, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support from family, friends, or professionals are important strategies to manage mental health effectively.
According to CHS’s Mental Health Awareness campaign calendar, “Countryside students work towards their academic goals while getting mental health support. These supports are built into their school day. The core mental health supports are mental health counseling, case management, a life skills class where students learn and practice coping strategies and mental health self care, and a program director/mental health rehab specialist on campus full time for students to access as necessary.” Mental Health has always been a priority for CHS and their newly introduced mental health awareness campaign further shows their efforts to destigmatize and promote the wellbeing of young students, said Meadows.
The Mental Health Awareness Campaign lasted from May 8th to May 31st with events meant to acknowledge and promote Mental Health matters. Student Skits, Karaoke, Art Showcase, Poetry, Walks, Movie Nights, etc were all a part of the month’s grand events. This year the walk was held exclusively on the campus but the school hopes to cooperate with Tulare’s Mayor to host the mental health walk downtown.
The campaign identified issues like Depression, Anxiety, and Schizophrenia while hosting an abundance of events geared towards the community.
She said by the end of the campaign the students had become more confident, standing upright with their mental health diagnosis and being afraid of who they are. She thought that media attention could have been a big confidence booster for the kids going to show how far they have come since the beginning of the program.
This is only the first of many Mental Health Awareness Campaigns to come. CHS’ goal is for every other school district in the county to help. In addition, the Mental Health Awareness Campaign will be a yearly event.
According to the calendar, CHS has prioritized the mental health of its students through the implementation of comprehensive mental health programs, raising awareness, fostering peer support, and collaborating with community resources since 2004. These proactive measures not only address the immediate mental health needs of students but also help in building resilience and equipping them with lifelong skills. As each year receives further support and recognition, CHS’s message of understanding oneself and that their mental health struggles are a human issue that can be overcome.
Help doesn’t have to solely come from CHS. Susan spoke of how families and their community can help push for better mental health awareness, “Start conversations with school. Talk with their kids. Learn about the mental health crisis. Hear about people’s struggles daily.”