THHS honors mental health month

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By: Rachel Zhang, staff writer

On Wednesday, May 23rd, Townsend Harris High School held the third annual mental health fair. Students were encouraged to visit the mental health fair during lunch bands and wear green to show their support. Some teachers were also supportive of the cause by giving less homework and encouraging relaxation.

As of now, students at THHS have varying levels of mental health. Sophomore Esther Chai said, “I consider myself to be somewhat healthy as I find activities to clear my mind, but I am sometimes overwhelmed with work.” While Esther described a moderate level of mental health, sophomore Cathy Chen described another situation. “I have way too much stress and find myself struggling with really bad headaches at least twice a month,” she explained. “Sometimes it impacts my ability to make good judgments.” Freshman Victor Shemper presented an opposite view on mental health as he said,  “I know how to manage my time and I am not very stressed.”

Still, many students describe THHS as the source of a majority of their stress. Cathy added, “The way things are balanced at this school makes it near impossible to get a consistent 8 hours of sleep. Some days I get 4. Other days I could get 10, but because I’m so used to sleeping at 2, I find it difficult to sleep earlier than midnight. It has completely ruined my sleep schedule.”  Sophomore Jennifer Jiang added, “I think that handling stressful situations and having a jam packed schedule in school limits a healthy mental state for students. In life, we do need to learn how to cope in unfavoring circumstances, but if the school can fix some issues, something should be done.”

Junior Max Kurant empathized with these student beliefs. He said,  “As much as I really did enjoy the fair today and other efforts for mental health awareness in Townsend Harris, the truth that everybody knows, but nobody speaks out about, is the fact that it is our own school that causes many of the mental health issues for students. We’re teaching students how to succeed in life, yet not how to take care of themselves. We value grades over wellbeing. We see pulling all-nighters and averaging extremely unhealthy amounts of sleep as just ‘normal.’”

Multiple students agree that changes to mental health need to be made. Jennifer continued, “We can encourage students to speak more about their personal issues with guidance, other students, staff and faculty members. The school can also provide mental health sessions each month or every few months to educate students and raise awareness.” Cathy added, “We can organize the homework and test schedule better. Some classes give homework more than others. Hence, some days I have relatively little homework, while on other days I have a lot. Additionally, I do not believe the odd/even testing day policy is beneficial. My classmates and I often still find ourselves having multiple tests on one day.” Despite the seemingly prevalent issue, current administration is working on finding solutions to the ongoing problem.  

The mental health fair was one of the ways that administration addressed this problem. At the fair, several organizations set up booths where students were educated on improving mental health and received resources that would help them to do so.  After the fair, Sophomore Neeharika Kotimreddy said, “I learned that there are many places to go to for help if I ever needed it and that I’m not alone.”

In addition to the mental health fair, awareness for mental health will continue throughout the month of May. Until the end of the month, students can purchase compliment candy grams to send to friends in honor of mental health. This $1 purchase comes with the choice of either Haribo gummy bears or Hershey’s hugs as well as the ability to send someone a compliment or message of encouragement to help improve their mental health.

THHS is currently taking more action in solving the issue of mental health. Max said, “I, myself along with Ms. York and the support of the Student Union are working on Project Understanding this week, a study largely focused on student mental health and understanding what students go through to help promote a better culture of understanding each other, and hopefully working on reforms that such data will guide.” He went on to describe future plans. “Next year, I’m working on creating a Mental Health Council made up of people focusing on initiatives that work on the issue of student mental health and seek to improve it. The Council will be planning events for next year. Such events would promote student confidence, teacher-student understanding, and allow people to see that they are not alone, and there is a whole community of people there for them.”

Students are hopeful that there will be changes made to improve the mental health of THHS students in the very near future. Max concluded, “What gives me hope is that we have a community full of very bright and passionate individuals who have ideas on how to improve mental health in Townsend Harris. I know many people from the administration, Student Union, and teachers around the school care deeply about this issue and have been taking action on it. I feel a wave of change coming along and I fully believe that we have the ability to make a school not only with the highest achieving students, but the happiest and healthiest students as well.”