PARMA, Ohio — Parma City Schools for years has held a successful Mental Health Summit where it trained students to become mental health ambassadors for their buildings.
During that time, word started to get around Northeast Ohio with other school districts looking to copy the highly successful program.
“Each year we train 50 to 100 students from all three high schools to be mental health ambassadors for their buildings,” said Parma High School Counselor Marian Armstrong.
“It turned out that several school districts have this need for mental health ambassadors, so we reached out to Cleveland State University to see if they wanted to partner with us about doing a Mental Health Summit on a larger scale.”
This led to the Teen Mental Health Summit held Oct. 10 (World Mental Health Day) at Rocket Mortgage Field House.
More than 500 students from Parma and nearly 20 other school districts learned about important mental health topics and how to be a Mental Health Ambassador
Kevin Love, Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio and Quest Diagnostics each donated $5,000 and Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board donated $1,000.
Students attended several workshops during the day that covered topics such as suicide prevention, mental health 101, anxiety and depression, stress and healthy relationships.
The Kevin Love Foundation also provided a newly created Social Emotional Learning curriculum that was used at the event. Several guest speakers presented to students and there was even a special question-and-answer session with Love.
“The message is, it’s OK to talk about mental health,” Armstrong said. “There are lots of people who care.”
Other presenters and supporters of the event included: Reilley’s Angels – therapy/service dogs, Cleveland Clinic, Life Act, Recovery Resources, NAMI of Cuyahoga County, The Harris Project, The Journey Center for Safety and Healing, Youth Yoga Project, CSU Counseling department, SADD and LGBTQ+ Center.
“This has been just a phenomenal endeavor all the way around,” Armstrong said.
“I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who are like-minded. They understand how important it is to help these kids be proactive and really work hard on feeling good about themselves so they can be successful later on in life. That was my favorite part of this whole process getting to know the agencies.”
The experience proved powerful for participating Parma City School District students.
“This is a great thing the district offers to students,” said Parma High School junior Elijah Breschini in a press release. “It has been nice seeing everyone talking to each other and having nice conversations. It wasn’t something I was expecting at all.”
In the same press release, Valley Forge High School freshman Lily Eichenmiller said the Teen Mental Health Summit was a great way for students to learn how to help others who don’t have anyone else to go to.
“Talking about mental health is so important because it makes sure that no one is feeling bad about themselves and lets them know there are people they can open up to and will listen,” Eichenmiller said.
“Mental health is something everyone should learn about and be aware of.”
That’s exactly the message Armstrong was hoping to hear students took away from what she said was hopefully the first of many Teen Mental Health Summits.
“This is big now,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to continue to do this and hopefully expand to middle school students next year.”
Read more news from the Parma Sun Post here.