Citywide teen mental health awareness campaign launches at Elmhurst high school

By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

The city launched a new mental health awareness campaign last week that is meant to educate students of the already existing services at their high schools.

First Lady Chirlane McCray unveiled the “There’s Help All Around You,” campaign Nov. 20 at the Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, where on Nov. 8, a 17-year-old male student stabbed a classmate outside of the front doors after an argument.

McCray hinted that perhaps the violent act was the result of untreated mental health issues.

“It’s OK to not feel OK,” she said.

A series of posters featuring will now be placed in public high schools around the city to remind students that there is help all around them. Signs will feature student artwork of things like “The Stress Monster” with captions like “Does your stress feel hard to shake and difficult to fight alone?”

“What’s happening here is a model for our country,” said John MacPhee, executive CEO of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect the emotional health and prevent suicide among teens and young adults.

According to the nonprofit, one out of five children struggles or will struggle with a mental health issue each year. Fear, embarrassment and lack of knowledge about resources play roles in the low number of students seeking help.

At every public high school in the city, there are mental health services such mental health clinics, counseling and mental health consultation. Services at the schools vary.

Students at Pan American International High School have been taking steps to narrow the gap between students who suffer from depression and anxiety and those who seek treatment.

One week out of the year is designated to highlighting mental health statistics and resources. They more than happy to have additional reminders in their school encouraging students to speak out about their troubles.

“We want to protect them before its too late,” said senior Karla Ramirez.

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