On Tuesday, February 4, students and faculty at SAR High School participated in the school’s first-ever Mental Health Awareness Day. The program was conceived and designed by school psychologists, Dr. Michelle Humi and Dr. Russell Hoffman. The program began with a schoolwide assembly featuring Randi Silverman, writer/producer of the award-winning film “No Letting Go,” the founder of the Youth Mental Health Project and an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness. The entire student body and faculty were riveted by Silverman’s story of her family’s struggle with mental illness and her exhortation to rethink attitudes toward mental health. Most notably, Silverman urged everyone to recognize that mental health is not synonymous with mental illness, that mental health exists on a continuum just like physical health, and that we ALL have mental health.
Following Silverman’s keynote address, students participated in one of 20 different workshops run by professionals from sponsoring organizations. Some topics included the power of peer support, healthy relationships, mindfulness and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, coping with stress/pressure and managing test anxiety.
Many students and faculty reported that they were incredibly moved that SAR High School is making mental health a priority and is fostering an open conversation about it. The hope is that is just the beginning of the conversation and that the community will continue working toward destigmatizing and prioritizing mental health.
The evening continued with a parallel program for parents. Over 115 parents came to hear Silverman share her story as she had earlier with students, but with greater emphasis on her experience as the parent of a child struggling with mental illness. Parents found her address extremely meaningful and inspiring. One parent remarked, “I am beyond proud to be a part of a school community who truly values, understands, supports and legitimizes mental health and the effect it has on families. May this be the first of many educational programs that is offered to both the student, as well as the parent body.”
Silverman shared her thoughts of her experience at SAR, “You and your colleagues did a fantastic job organizing a thoughtful and meaningful event for your students, teachers, and parents. It was particularly special to be able to speak with the students during the day and parents during the evening.”
By Dr. Russell Hoffman