Beyond the stress: New club promotes dialogue about mental health

In the past several months, CESJDS students have partnered with the administration to pioneer a Mental Health Awareness Club that aims to end the stigma regarding mental illness. They strive to create a safe space for students suffering from various mental afflictions. Dean of Students Roslyn Landy and high school guidance counselors Rachel Soifer and Melissa Gartner invited students to help form the club following the Umtter suicide prevention initiative at JDS earlier this year. 

The club organized programs to take place over the course of the semester, including creating a magazine. The magazine is called “One in Five” and will be made up of anonymous student writing, artwork and questions for an advice column. 

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the club has special programs during lunch every Tuesday in the month of May. On May 1, there was a program about breaking barriers and overcoming challenges, and on May 8 there was a workshop focused on differentiating between facts and rumors regarding mental health. 

Other programs for this month included a Dialectical Behavior Therapy run by junior Shira Finke on May 15, where club members talked about several strategies to improve thought processes in an effort to reduce negative thinking and anxiety.

Sophomore Davida Goldman ran a program which centered around reframing negative thoughts and focusing on positive attitudes on May 22. At Goldman’s program, students learned how to counteract and prevent negative thoughts with positive self-talk techniques.

Landy recognizes the importance of spreading awareness about mental health in schools. She is very supportive of the club and attends the meetings nearly every week.

 “Even if students do not currently know anyone with a mental health issue now, they will certainly meet someone in college or later who faces challenges related to mental illness,” Landy said. “It is our responsibility to help prepare our students to understand the challenges people face, to recognize the signs in themselves and others and to learn about ways to help themselves or others.”

Goldman also thinks the club and its mission are important. She joined the club because she and her peers have struggled with their mental health and she wants to help spread awareness.

“I really want to be able to have it not be such a taboo topic to talk about. It should be something that people recognize and are aware of, and are not afraid to hear about or to discuss,” Goldman said.

Goldman has contributed to past programming and raised awareness about this club and its mission by making flyers and talking to people about the club. 

Goldman also contributed to the idea of handing out ribbons representing various mental illnesses when JDS held an assembly where students spoke about their experience with anxiety on January 18.

Sophomore Ally Knapp was also inspired to get involved with the club because she agrees with the club’s message to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Early on this year, some people got together and decided it was something important to do at this school, and then the club formed and it just took off from there,” Knapp said.

While the club has many programs running this spring, Knapp and Goldman would like to see it grow in the coming years with an increase in attendance to programs. 

“I hope that the Mental Health Awareness Club is able to spread our message of tolerance,” Goldman said. “I hope that we can continue to plan programs and maybe help people through some hard times that they’re going through, and help students and teachers be able to deal with mental illness and just overall mental health and well being.”

This story was featured in the Volume 35, Issue 6 print edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on May 30, 2018.