MIDDLEBURG, Fla - Wilkinson Junior High School in Clay County hosted its first-ever Mental Health Awareness Day on Tuesday called “From Trials to Triumph.”
During the day-long event, students rotated through classes as usual. However, during each class, a guest speaker addressed a different issue. Topics included bullying, social skills, risky behavior, coping skills, anxiety and goal setting.
“They’re going through transitions, emotional and physical transitions,” Michael McAuley, assistant superintendent of climate and culture, said.
“And we wanted to give them some strategies… in how they can have more positive experience while they’re at school as well as just out with their friends in general.”
Eighth-grader Mary Abare juggles extracurricular activities like Future Business Leaders of America and National Junior Honor Society on top of her regular school work.
Abare’s biggest take away of the day was that people should always ask for help, whether they’re overwhelmed with school work or struggling with bullying or depression.
“Involve other people, whether it’s an adult, a friend, just don’t think that you can use everything and put everything on your shoulders,” Abare said.
According to StopBullying.gov, a website managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 28 percent of middle and high school students experienced bullying. Around 30 percent admitted to bullying others and 70.6% said they have seen bullying in their schools.
“I hope they walk away with a better understanding of where to go to if they need help themselves or if they have a friend who needs some help,” Wilkinson Junior High Principal Christina Cornwell said.
Hit shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” have put the national spotlight on teen bullying and suicide.
The show follows the aftermath of a teen girl’s suicide and the tapes she leaves behind to explain why she took her own life.
While McAuley appreciates the show’s effort to address those sensitive issues, he worries teens and pre-teens might be unable to see the show solely as entertainment.
For that reason, he encourages parents to talk about it with their children.
“So that they don’t walk away with the glamorized version of it," McAuley said. "That it is difficult, it is sad and it sometimes is not easy to deal with."
In fact, he said talking to kids is the best thing parents can do.
“I think the more we can dialogue with our kids about just what life means and some of the stuff that’s attached to it, I think the better they will be as adults when they get there,” McAuley said.
The district hopes to spread the Mental Health Awareness Day to other schools next year.