In an effort to focus more on mental health, Duval County Public Schools recently held two mental health conferences. Mental health has been receiving increasing focus in society and media lately. Duval schools wanted to send the message to their students that social, emotional, and mental needs are just as important as academic success.
These conferences were specifically held in May to commemorate the fact that this month is National Mental Health Awareness month. The conferences were held for 8th and 9th graders at Raines High School and Jefferson David Middle School. Topics focused on depression, suicide prevention, bullying, stress management and anxiety. All topics that kids of these ages are confronted with daily.
The need for these discussions was made clear through the Youth Risk Behavior Survey the schools released last year. Close to 32% of high school students reported feeling sad for tow or more weeks in a row with one out of five reporting suicidal thoughts. The numbers were equally as shocking for middle schoolers. 27% has thoughts about suicide with 11% trying to commit it.
The recent Netflix hit, “13 Reasons Why”, which focuses on a girl who committed suicide leaving behind 13 reasons why she did it on tapes, has been worrying for some people. Scenes of bullying, rape, and suicide are graphically depicted. Some students report being triggered by it while parents and school officials worry how to handle the hit show.
The sessions, called “More Than Sad”, work on issues related to the show. Students were taught about the signs of depression and suicidal behavior. All of the topics were taught in age-appropriate ways, using games like Jeopardy to engage students while being informative.
Students and instructors shared stories about how mental health has impacted their life. Duval public schools hope to be saturated with mental health resources and understanding.
The number of conferences grows each year. Last year only one school held it but more are being added. Talks of expanding to more schools or having a central location where students can be bused to like a college are in talks. The goal is to get this information and education to as many people as possible.
Currently, Duval County is working on training all of their teachers in mental health first aid. They hope to have all 8,000 teachers trained by 2019 and 2,500 have already completed it. With students seeing their teachers more than parents in some cases proper training is more important than ever.
The schools hope that everyone in the school environment, students, teachers, parents, and administrators, will be able to recognize signs of mental health issues and have resources ready at their disposal.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health contact one of Florida’s top psychiatrists to get help.