Stamping Out Stigma

Tyler Simeone

Mental Health Banner in B Hall.

Tyler Simeone, Copy Editor

This week marks MHS’s first annual Mental Health Awareness Week, an event sponsored by the Guidance Department in an effort to normalize discussion on mental health issues and raise awareness for students that may be affected. The Guidance Department hosted events like stress ball making and yoga to help iron out the daily stress of high school, and students sported green on Wednesday and green ribbons all week to show support.

The topic of mental health in high school is extremely important but not always so easy to talk about. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, half of all life-long cases of mental illness begin by age 14, but only 20% of adolescent cases are reported. Students may often be afraid of seeking help, an obstacle that the guidance office seeks to overcome. “There is some fear,” said guidance counselor Brooke Mascia, “that by talking about it students are concerned that they’ll be viewed as different or as crazy.” The primary goal of Mental Health Awareness Week is to make students feel comfortable enough to talk about mental health to go for help if they need it. Dr. Lyndsi Silberman, the school psychologist, said she hopes students can go to the guidance office about mental health in the same way they would go to the nurse’s office for a physical illness. Many students, she says, don’t even know who she is or what she does. This is another goal of Mental Health Awareness Week; increased visibility of faculty and in-school counselors. “Personally, I want to not feel like just an academic counselor, but I want students to see me as a counselor that they can come to for a whole host of problems because we view students holistically.”

Mental health awareness, however, is not just beneficial for those with mental illness; Mrs. Mascia and Dr. Silberman hope that this week’s events will have helped anyone with a loved one who has a mental illness. That’s what makes awareness so important; everyone can be affected by mental illness, whether it be a personal issue or that of a family member or friend. Mental illness is sort of a taboo topic and that prevents people from seeking help for fear of judgement or isolation. This week, however, the guidance office’s endeavor to stamp out stigma has gotten the school talking about mental illness, making the necessary strides to normalize the conversation.