Let’s Talk About Mental Health!

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Jaylin Lara Torres, Editor

This Summer, junior Andrea Valadez was a part of the Mikvah Challenge Teen Mental Health Council held in downtown Chicago. The mission was to raise awareness of mental health issues and to help reduce negative stigmas.

The mental health council had approximately 23 members. Throughout the course of this program, the members had to create surveys, research the topics, and come up with recommendations that could improve mental health services in Chicago.

“Mental health awareness is extremely important and should be held at the same standard as Sex Ed. Schools focus a lot on Sexual Education, but how come they don’t focus on the importance of mental health?” said Valadez.

One of tasks that they completed was coming up with seven recommendations that they took to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, The University of Chicago and decision makers in hopes of increasing the amount of mental health services available. The recommendations are as follows: peer support groups for mental health in schools, increased training of school teachers/staff in capital Youth Mental Health First Aid, increased support for training programs for police officers, teaching students correct information about mental health in schools, wellness days, making hospitals more comfortable for the patients and making insurance companies, mental health organizations and hospitals pay for/sponsor mental health service programs.

“I was a bit nervous because I felt that they wouldn’t take our suggestions seriously, but once we presented all of them they were really impressed and loved what we were doing,” said Valadez.

Another task that the group accomplished was creating a survey. The survey consisted of clarifying questions such as, “If you were to reach out for help where would you look to?”and “How would you pay for mental health services?” The 23 members were split into smaller groups for this activity and had survey professionals assist them.

“About 200-300 people from the ages of 14 and up took our survey. Majority of people weren’t aware of basic knowledge. For instance, many people didn’t know they could go to a therapist and provide their parents’ or their insurance in order to receive up to three confidential sessions,” said Valadez.

Overall, Valadez enjoyed her experience and is anxiously waiting for the trip she will be taking this upcoming October to California where she will be awarded and become a social emotional learning expert.

“This was an amazing experience. I always looked forward to working because I was surrounded by a positive atmosphere; everyone was always ready to listen to each other’s suggestions. I learned so many things I didn’t know, and now I can take them and help people in need,” said Valadez.