The Mental Health Alliance

Stephanie Racker A new organization has been added to Latin’s continuously growing list of opportunities for students to engage with their peers about crucial topics that aren’t always openly discussed: the Mental Health Alliance. Started by Junior Bianca Voss and Freshman Lexi Goldman, the Mental Health Alliance hopes to act as a space for individuals to become more aware of mental health and how it affects the community around them, as well as remind students that they are not alone in the struggles they may be facing. The new group aims to bring more awareness to Latin about what mental health truly is, remove the many negative stigmas that surround it, and simply start a conversation around mental health. Bianca Voss explained that while Latin does a great job at creating dialogue and educating students on key identifiers like race, economic status, and sexuality, the school often doesn’t provide students an opportunity to discuss another core identifier—ability. Ability as a cultural identifier refers to whether or not an individual suffers from either a physical or mental disability that seriously affects their day- to- day life. Because of the lack of communication and education regarding mental health, a key aspect of ability as an identifier, Latin’s student body tends to turn a blind eye to how individuals are affected by mental health and lack the empathy needed to create a change in the way Latin as a community perceives mental health, which is demonstrated through the normalization of remarks such as “I want to die” or “I want to kill myself.” As a result, many students at Latin don’t actually feel supported by their peers. To combat the current state of Latin’s student body’s views on mental health, the Mental Health Alliance has chosen to be primarily student run in hopes of allowing students to feel more comfortable engaging in the difficult conversations often provoked by the group’s subject matter. Another unique aspect that differentiates the Mental Health Alliance from many other groups here at Latin is that it’s neither a club or affinity group. Rather than asking individuals to become a member or join, the Mental Health Alliance aims to simply be a group where any student can feel welcomed any time, whether they choose to attend only one meeting or every meeting the group hosts. On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, the Mental Health Alliance held their first meeting during both lunch blocks to introduce the group and discuss issues surrounding mental health. The lunch was filled with both faculty and students who trickled into room 312 throughout both lunch periods. The meeting was structured loosely in a way that allowed students and faculty to voice their opinions throughout while still remaining engaged. During the meeting, fake scenarios were handed out, and students and faculty were asked to share what they would do when faced with each specific situation. These scenarios created dialogue that gave individuals the chance to gain a better understanding of how mental illness can affect those around them and how to better handle dealing with situations that involve mental health. The Mental Health Alliance is an addition to the Latin School community that has been needed for quite some time. If anything, the Mental Health Alliance hopes to teach students and faculty the importance of working together to help change the conversation surrounding mental health and hopes to educate these individuals on how to better support the school community through empathy and understanding.   ]]>