GREENVILLE — May is Mental Health Awareness month. Greenville City Schools provides a variety of mental health resources, and Greenville Middle School (GMS) has established the mental health of our students as a priority. Emotional health is necessary for a productive future and an ability to navigate the complexities of life. When we support the whole child then learning and growth is the natural result.
This past year has been extremely hard on everyone but especially for our children. As adults we are tasked with helping teach resiliency and perseverance but also focus on emotional wellness. Along with the adult efforts the student leaders of Greenville Middle School have shown the initiative to focus on mental health education this month through announcements, video skits, and classroom presentations under the supervision of Mr. Chad Curtis. To support their voice and the priority they have put on Mental Health Awareness for their classmates three student leaders were asked to provide feedback on why this topic is important to them personally and why it became a priority at this time. They were also asked if they had anything else to share on the topic. Their answers are resoundingly mature, focused and inciteful.
What does mental health awareness mean to you as a student leader?
Female, eighth grade, “To me, mental health awareness means the whole world. It’s important for everyone to acknowledge the fact that mental health is a real struggle. And it’s one of most important parts of a person that holds them together, as your mind controls everything your body does. As a student leader, a student, a sibling, and a friend to many, my goal of even joining student leaders was to help bring mental health back into the view of those who seemed to gone blind from other circumstances. From what I’ve learned growing up, it seems mental health has been thrown out of the picture and most people seem to try to aim ‘health’ as only a physical problem. What I’m trying to say, I, personally, put mental health above any other part of my life and the lives of those I encounter along the way.”
What made the student leaders make this a priority?
Female, eighth grade, “Student leaders made mental health awareness a prioritized topic because as teens and pre-teens we go through lots of stress daily between school, sports, family problems, drama with friends etc. We as student leaders feel we should take time even if it’s just a little bit to make sure students at GMS know there are people that care about them and want them here. Mental health isn’t an easy topic but we feel that it should be talked about and deserves awareness brought to it.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Male, eighth grade, “I would also like to share that I greatly appreciate that you are getting a student’s opinion of Mental Health Awareness. I understand that I don’t know as much as professionals and/or everyday people, but I’m trying to help, and the fact that you’re recognizing that, helps inspire me to continue to try to help others. I also know that I am not always perfect and that I will eventually hurt other people’s feelings. Although, I also know that when I hurt someone’s feeling or get in an argument with someone that has different beliefs as I do, I should be peaceful and try to resolve the situation in a way where both sides of the argument end in respect towards each other’s personal thoughts.”
Our school counselors, Tiffany Fine and Kailey Guillozet, were also asked to give feedback on how the adults address mental health concerns as well as awareness at GMS
In what ways do we let our students who have concerns know they are not alone?
Tiffany Fine, “When a tragedy occurs, students are informed by teachers or over the announcements where they can go for help/to discuss concerns. When I meet with individuals, I try to end every session by asking if the student would like to meet again (we can either schedule or we discuss how the student can reach me), I explain how students can contact me (including when I am not in my office), and make sure they understand that this is not about me (I don’t have to meet a quota), time in my office is their time to talk, have a quiet moment or use one of their tools in privacy. For the total population, I think the only way that they would know that they are not alone is if teachers are doing daily/weekly check-ins (I know several teachers that do a Monday-weekendcheck in with their entire class); I think students need frequent reminders that there are counselors available to them.”
What are some ways that you help students know it’s okay to not be okay, plan to help them navigate their day at school, and transfer that to home?
Kailey Guillozet, “There are students who may need to meet and chat one time, while others may need continual support. Making connections with these students and building rapport is always essential. As a counselor, it’s important to never judge and always listen with open ears and hearts. When speaking to middle school students, it’s important to give the student your full attention and never diminish their thoughts and feelings, but also provide them different perspectives and/or viewpoints to move forward. As a counselor, there are times when parents must be/need to be contacted and there are times when students need more help than we can provide and must be referred to the mental health counselors.
What would you perceive as the largest concern for MS students and providing mental health
Tiffany Fine, “Some of the largest concerns for middle schoolers—relationships, self-harm, family changes, social media, setting boundaries: sticking with them, and not feeling bad for setting them, vaping, exploring drug and alcohol use, appropriately navigating a little more freedom; organization, study skills; I mean they are middle schoolers. Their minds are in several different places at once and are changing topics frequently. They have a lot on their minds and don’t know how to process it all. They need time to talk and be heard, genuinely heard. Not just rushed on to the next thing. However, the positive is we have mental health providers in the school, and we have texting/talking hotlines for students to utilize.”
If you have questions or concerns or find yourself needing help please reach out to Wellness and Recovery Services of Midwest Ohio https://www.recoveryandwellnessohio.org/ or The Alliance on Mental Health Awareness, https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-HealthAwareness-Month