We are approaching two years since I stood at the podium in the Tempe Union Governing Board room for the first time to introduce a resolution surrounding mental health and suicide prevention.
After losing a close friend of mine several years back, I began to recognize how prevalent of an issue teenage suicide has become. We as a community have lost too many friends and loved ones.
That is why I got involved with our school board and am running for a seat this year. As someone who grew up here in Ahwatukee and graduated from our schools recently, I have seen and understand the daunting challenges our students face on a daily basis.
We often talk about schools needing to involve students to determine the best course of action to support them, but too often that fails to occur.
Through my opportunity to create and chair a student advisory committee at the district, I was able to bring a fresh set of eyes to the discussions the district had.
This perspective is one I believe to be vital to bring to a five-person governing body that oversees high schools in order to make the most informed decisions that reflect all parts of our community.
Our students have a chance to have a board member who looks like them, understands them, and has seen the direct impact this board has had on their lives.
When it comes to mental health, there are many things district policy can address – such as hiring more counselors and social workers, reducing administrative tasks for counselors, critically examine the role and operations of our counseling departments and professional development.
While these all are steps in the right direction, what is rarely discussed is the stigma associated with mental health.
I know, firsthand, a great many students who are afraid to approach a teacher, counselor, or even parent about social/emotional struggles due to this stigma.
Mental health is swept under the rug and taken as a joke while those that are suffering feel as if they have nowhere to go. So many suffer in silence and fear because of this stigma.
This is where we as a district and community must come together to foster open and honest conversations about mental health. Options range from our health curriculum, social/emotional assemblies and much more.
Simple messages such as asking “What are you feeling?” rather than “What is wrong with you?” can go a long way.
This is just one of many instances where I believe a perspective of someone who has experienced the classroom in recent years and gone through the ups and downs of high school in our district is vital.
I hope to continue the work I have started and bring a unique and fresh voice to the Tempe Union school board.