Severna Park High School students held the second annual Mental Health Matters Week from March 6-10, with a community walk on March 11. Their goal was to start a conversation, letting students know that it’s OK to not be OK and that they are not alone.
The school celebrated spirit days throughout the week starting with Pajama Day on Monday, followed by Adam Sandler Day on Tuesday, Wear Green Wednesday, Hats vs. Hoodies on Thursday and Anything But a Backpack Day on Friday.
“We made it a priority to share resources that students could access 24/7 if they needed someone to talk to,” said junior Eric Lin, a member of Severna Park High School’s Student Government Association (SGA). “Our spirit days aimed to bring students together and create a sense of community in a fun way.”
During the week, multiple advisory lessons were created by students, for students, focused on destigmatizing and talking about mental health issues. For example, one advisory lesson included a student panel that looked at songs about mental health and how students may be experiencing the same thing.
Athena Vangraefschepe and Elliot Gerig served as mental health committee vice chairs. Gerig said the SGA polled students before deciding on the themes.
“With our fantastic new principal, we had students bring in ‘backpacks’ ranging from toaster ovens to baby strollers for the first time ever,” he said. “That day, in particular, got the most spirit, but the entire week represented how well our school can come together around an important topic such as mental health.”
Students enjoyed self-care activities during Falcon Blocks (mid-day block). Lin said the SGA wanted to give students a much-needed opportunity to destress and take a break during the school day while having fun with friends. Activities included yoga, nap time, going outside, rock painting, and karaoke. After school, they held two baking sessions, one with brownies and one with cookies.
The festivities culminated with the community walk on Saturday. Donut Shack provided donuts and coffee for attendees. All donations from the walk went to Burgers and Bands for Suicide Prevention.
Vangraefschepe knew Mental Health Matters Week was going to be a success, but the support of Principal Lindsay Abruzzo and the school administration exceeded her expectations.
“Like Hats vs. Hoodies is technically a violation of the dress code and Anything But a Backpack” [Day] was something we thought would be a tough sell,” she said. “But Ms. Abruzzo came through, and we instantly knew it was going to be a success.”
She heard from both students and teachers who praised the event.
“It’s so important for us to spread the message about the importance of mental health, and although we can’t solve any issues in one week, we definitely tried to provide a comfortable, chill environment for people, and I feel it worked out well,” Vangraefschepe said.
Lin agreed that Mental Health Matters Week was well received by most of the school community.
“In all, our goal as an SGA was to have a fun week for students to enjoy while having a serious conversation about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and what we, as students, as a school, and as a community, can do to fix that,” Lin said. “We hope to continue this tradition and have more community involvement in the years to come.”