Students participate in Mental Health first aid training in February.

Freshmen strive to improve mental health

April 17, 2019

According to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24, making high school a critical time to identify and treat mental illness.

Mariam Mkhitaryan and Preksha Sarda have spent their Freshmen year working on a project to increase awareness of mental health.

“We first decided to start this project because we just noticed that a lot of people including our friends who struggle with mental health conditions and illnesses were not getting the proper help,” Mariam said.

Their three-part project included a documentary night showing of Call Me Crazy, a mental health first aid training session for students, and will culminate with a fundraiser for the Cameron Cario +10 foundation.

The documentary night was held in mid-February for students and staff interested in learning more about mental illness. Call Me Crazy chronicles the lives of five people struggling from a mental illness, spanning from depression to schizophrenia.

“[The film] just really shows what it is like to go through [mental illness] on a daily basis and what it is like for the friends and family. It sparks discussion on what to do and what not to do,” Mariam said.

Eager to give students a chance to dive into understanding how to help those struggling with mental illness, Marium and Preksha worked with Associate Principal Brian Carico to organize mental health training sessions for students held in January and early February.

Carico, who has made addressing Mental health issues a main concern of his since his son Cameron Carico completed suicide is 2012, is certified to teach mental health first aid. Over two weeks, Carico, Marium and Preksha led thirteen students through the 8 hour course…

The first four hours session focused on the generals of mental health, learning about the causes and symptoms of different disorders. The second four hours focused on immersing students in hypothetical situations involving mental illness, challenging them to think about the most helpful way to respond. The goal of the program was to increase the number of students who would be equipped to help their struggling peers.

A lot of people if they are struggling with something, especially if they are a student, they are not necessarily going to reach out to an adult, but if one of there friends can help them that can be really powerful.”

— Preksha Sarda

“A lot of people if they are struggling with something, especially if they are a student, they are not necessarily going to reach out to an adult, but if one of there friends can help them that can be really powerful,” Preksha said.

The third part of the project is a fundraiser that will take place in April. Mariam and Preksha have worked with local businesses to secure gift cards and other goodies for a raffle that all students can participate in. They also plan to do a coin drive in the science classrooms.

The money raised would be matched by local businesses.

At the end of the week, all the raised money will be donated to the Cameron Carico Foundation, the charity Carico started after his son’s suicide.

Mariam and Preksha, don’t plan to end their project with only three parts. In the future, they hope to explore ways to incorporate more mindfulness meditation and other mindful practices into the classroom.  

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