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MoCo addresses mental health after series of student suicides

Back in December, the entire Montgomery County community was alarmed by the suicides of two high school students. The shock of losing two students within the short span of one week, first a sophomore from Walt Whitman High School then a junior from Walter Johnson High School, left the county stunned and asking questions. What could have enabled this to happen?

Shortly after the two tragedies, petitions were created to shed light on suicide prevention efforts and address the growing mental health problems in the community.

More than a month later, there has been a visible change within the county. The disheartening news had prompted a countywide effort to raise mental health awareness and establish a support system for all students. Students from several different schools have organized clubs to promote awareness for this issue.

Sophomore Jonathan Mortman and senior Rachel Herman of Richard Montgomery High School created the Teen Depression Awareness Campaign (T-DAC). “It’s time to stop being reactive, and start being proactive,” the initiative’s website stated. Mortman and Herman reached out beyond their local school community, and expanded their campaign to nine other schools through student representatives, two of which (Sandy Springs Friends and St. John’s) are private schools outside the MCPS system.

In addition to the schoolwide efforts, the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR) has also taken a stand. The organization discussed possible mental health initiatives at their General Assemblies and Executive Board meetings. “The most important aspect in better addressing mental health in MCPS is adequate resource access for every student. It’s imperative that the school system allocate more funding to wellness centers and additional counselors, so that our most vulnerable populations have access to these resources when they need them most,” MCR Vice President Ananya Tadikonda said. “Mental health is a significant aspect of ability to achieve academically, and therefore it is the school system’s job to address student concerns in relation to this issue.”

As a result, MCR reached out to students with multiple surveys and communicated with students in almost every high school to hear the student voice on the topic. “We have learned that students are most vocal about the implementation of mental health awareness days in schools, easier access to counselors, and management of academic workload,” Tadikonda noted.

At MCR’s December General Assembly, the current Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Matt Post voiced his plans to combat the matter as well. He created a student forum on mental health in order to discuss the necessary resources and supports that should be implemented in the county. The forum will take place on February 6th, from 6-8pm.

The events of last December has humbled our community as a whole, and it is with hope and determination that Montgomery County continues to fight back against the issue of mental health and tries its best to build a better environment for students in the future.

Article by MoCo Student staff writer Michelle Ling of Richard Montgomery High School

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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