- Valley Forge High School
PCSD focuses on mental health and well being for middle school students
May 4, 2020
On March 10, middle school students from across the district came together to discuss mental health issues and topics at the PCSD Mental Health Summit.
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals age 10 – 34, 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and 50% of all lifetime mental health illness begins by age 14.
With these concerning statistics, Parma City School District continues to place a focus on not just academic success for all students, but also the social and emotional needs of every child.
About 90 students, 30 from each of the three middle schools, were selected to participate in the program and become Mental Health Ambassadors for their school.
Students met at Hillside Middle School for a day of speakers, break-out discussion groups and hands-on activities. The program was supported by NAMI, Ohio Guidestone, Recovery Resources and PCSD School Counseling Staff.
Hillside Middle School Guidance Counselor, Don Armstrong, said this was the first year they offered a Mental Health Summit for middle school students. The district held one last year for high school students but felt it was important to expand this to younger ages.
“Mental health awareness, in general, is important, but this really ties in with the district’s initiative of building resilient learners,” he described. “Being a resilient learner is being able to overcome obstacles, know how to access support and being able to solve problems. This isn’t just for high school students. The earlier students have these skills, the better off they will be.”
The event opened up with an activity where students wrote their name and something positive about themselves on a puzzle piece. Those puzzle pieces were put together to form a heart on the wall to show how everyone fits together and can support each other.
Other breakout sessions included mindfulness and yoga, NAMI game room, stress and anxiety lesson and a mental health round table. Students also received buttons that showed they are now Mental Health Ambassadors then made buttons for others in their school with words of encouragement.
“What is means to be a Mental Health Ambassador is to be the eyes and ears of the school,” Armstrong described. “You are aware of the symptoms in yourself and others, and how you can help yourself or someone you know. You also know how to get resources and you know when to talk to an adult or counselor about mental health issues.”
Students at the end of the event were asked to create a trifold board with what they learned throughout the day.
“We tried to get a good mix of students from each building and each grade to provide them with the information to be leaders in this topic in their schools,” he shared. “We also wanted this to be an opportunity for kids to connect with others they might not know in their school as well as the chance to meet new people from the other buildings.”
Armstrong hopes students had a positive and educational experience and will take what they have learned to help others.
“We all know someone who has faced or is facing mental health issues,” he expressed. “So, this event brought about mental health awareness as well as the tools to recognize those warning signs of mental health problems and get the help needed.”
A Mental Health Summit was planned for high school students as well on March 19, but this event was postponed.
PHOTO CAPTION: PCSD middle school students learn relaxation and yoga techniques with Hillside counselor Kasey Kellem.