Mission Mental Health Awareness aims to boost resources in RSD
What initially started off as a mere attempt to earn a Girl Scout Gold Award eventually blossomed into a full-blown campaign for change in RSD by LHS senior Isha Deol.
Deol started Mission Mental Health Awareness (Mission MHA), a student-led initiative that seeks to build upon the current mental health resources in place in RSD.
The main goals of Mission MHA, Deol said, are to improve mental health training and education for teachers, make the current resources that the district provides more accessible, increase awareness of these resources among students and get mental health professionals more involved in schools.
“Admin and teachers often make students more concerned with standardized test scores and grades than with their mental health,” Deol said. “I think if we show the district there needs to be a change with ethos, pathos and logos in our presentation, we can save lives and promote wellbeing.”
Although Mission MHA started at LHS, in time it spread to incorporate members of all four of the high schools in RSD. Currently, the group plans to present to the RSD Board of Education (BOE) on Thursday, Feb. 4, in hopes of making a mental health class for students to strengthen education on the subject of mental health and work toward eliminating the stigma associated with it.
Deol sent a message to Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Support Services Dr. Shelley Willott and Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles about improving mental health resources, which eventually made its way to Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Terry Harris, who is currently assisting the group with preparing their presentation in front of the BOE.
Dr. Harris said having someone of his level in administration is imperative for an initiative like this.
“The most important issue we face in education right now is mental health for all students,” Dr. Harris said. “Mental health is an equity issue as well, so there are certain kids of color who struggle more with mental health issues because of opportunity [and] access that are afforded to them.”
Academic competition among students, which is characteristic of MHS, Harris said, can lead to feelings of stress, depression and isolation, even compounding into mental illness. Dr. Harris said RSD has to get to the point where they are supporting students academically and emotionally.
Education on mental health as early as kindergarten will enable students to be able to combat future issues once a student begins high school, Dr. Harris said. Just like students know how to write a paper by the time they reach high school, they should know how to deal with the feelings of stress and anxiety that are characteristic of mental illness.
Dr. Harris said the school district currently has great mental health resources available, but they need to increase awareness of their resources. RSD also needs to continue to reevaluate the resources provided to students because what works for students now may not work in the future.
Destigmatizing mental illness is a huge part of the effort to fight its detrimental effects, Dr. Harris said. Having faculty talk about their own personal battles with depression or stress and talking about when they were in high school normalizes those feelings and makes students more open to talking about their own struggles.
“Part of what we have to do is talk about these issues,” Dr. Harris said. “Education has to be an institution of truthfulness, even when the truth is hard.”
Jane Doe, who requested to remain anonymous, is an MHS student who joined Mission MHA.
Doe said she would like RSD to offer resources that students are more aware of and that benefit them. She said having a mandatory class to teach about mental health can help do that.
“As we grow up, we haven’t really seen a lot of ways to help ourselves as students,” Doe said. “I feel like a class would really help students because we will be able to learn how to deal with everything.”
In her experience, Doe said her counselor helped her deal with anxiety she was having first semester. After emailing the counselor and receiving videos on how to cope with her stress, Doe said her counselor made her feel better and comforted her by saying she was always there for her support.
Expanding resources and instruction on mental health, Doe said, is something RSD can do to combat these problems among their students.
“I decided to join because their mission was what I wanted to see in Rockwood,” Doe said. “Even though Rockwood always tries their best, we’re all human, so everything is not perfect, and everything can always get better.”
Zara Tola, senior, is copy editor for the Marquette Messenger. Zara can be seen frequently attending Board of Education meetings and community events for...