The percentage of high school students reporting to have experienced symptoms of mental illnesses is shockingly high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one in three high school students report feeling so sad or hopeless that they stopped doing usual activities due to their intense emotions. Although the tangible evidence fully acknowledges the urgency of the teen mental health epidemic, teens’ consistent struggle is not one of the openly chatted topics in the high school atmosphere. The sole way to eliminate the enduring stigma behind mental health is promoting an insightful awareness regarding this topic.
With this resolute goal in mind, a group of four high school juniors at Larchmont Charter School- Goeun Lee (author), Timothy Lee, Enoch Lee, and Natalia Popovic- have established a safe ground for mental health promotion. While pondering upon the most efficient way to create a secure, comfortable environment to talk about mental health, we came up with a feasible idea of creating a club on our school campus. One of the perks of going to a charter school is the supportive school setting for student leadership opportunities. Therefore, we took advantage of this chance to create the club with the support of the school administrators. The four students, including myself, confidently broke the silence surrounding mental health, with the establishment of the profound Mental Health Awareness Club in Fall 2019.
Despite our grandiose goal of promoting mental health awareness, our actual goal is just getting people to care. Care. It is a simple word; yet, it leads to unimaginably amazing things. In addition, this word makes the goal sound so easily achievable, but in fact, getting people to earnestly care about a topic is a difficult task. The desired output of this club is for every single club member to become influential “teen mental health ambassadors”.
Beginning with the basics, we kicked off the year with education on what mental health is. Approximately 30 high school students, who voluntarily signed up to be a part of this wonderful cause, were educated on the notorious stigma behind mental health and what we- as students- can do to impose impact in our Larchmont community. In one class, Natalia Popovic led a classroom seminar discussing the art of active listening: how listening to a peer’s problem attentively can make a huge difference. On another occasion, we conducted a discussion on how a single question, “Are you okay?”, can start effective conversations to help each other. During the most recent club time, students learned about anxiety and depression, which are the prominent mental illnesses suffered by teens of the 21st century.
Luckily, the Korean Youth Community Center, KYCC, has partnered with our club. KYCC’s outreach representative, Edward Hong, visits our club biweekly to assist us on our journey towards mental health awareness. Edward educates us on different mental health issues prevalent among teens and introduces us to a myriad of available low-cost resources for youth struggling with mental health problems.
As soon as the education part of the club is over, our club presidents wish to develop school-wide projects to bring direct changes to our campus. We plan on creating posters, videos, group seminars, fundraisers, and partnerships with mental health institutions.
As one of the founding presidents of the newly created Mental Health Club, I am delighted to see the number of my peers contributing to make a difference in our campus. I am hopeful that our club will serve as an example, to show our community that high school students are capable of creating an immense impact.
Grade 11, Larchmont Charter School