Q&A: SMOB Matt Post talks mental health

Student+Member+of+the+Board+Matthew+Post+is+a+strong+advocate+for+mental+health+policies+in+MCPS.+He+held+a+mental+health+forum+Feb.+6+to+discuss+current+issues+in+the+system+with+students+and+to+provide+tips+to+help+students+who+struggle+with+mental+illness.+Photo+courtesy+MoCo+Connect.+

Student Member of the Board Matthew Post is a strong advocate for mental health policies in MCPS. He held a mental health forum Feb. 6 to discuss current issues in the system with students and to provide tips to help students who struggle with mental illness. Photo courtesy MoCo Connect.

By Rebecca Hirsh

Student Member of the Board Matt Post hosted a Mental Health Forum Feb. 6 at MCPS headquarters in Rockville. Director of Psychological Services Christina Conolly spoke about the signs of mental health issues and offered helpful resources. Students then shared personal stories regarding their experiences with the inadequacies in the county’s mental health care system.

The county has begun implementing the research-based Suicide Awareness Program, where students learn through scenarios and discussions how to act, acknowledging friend’s feelings, care for them, and tell a trusted adult. After the forum, the Black & White spoke with Post on his dedication to mental health reform and his experience as SMOB.

Black & White: Why did you decide to have this forum?

Matt Post: Certainly the recent tragedies have spurred the conversation. I’ve been involved in mental health advocacy in the past recent years. I firmly believe this is a conversation we need to have, not just in the context of a suicide but throughout the entire year.

B&W: How do you feel students at high schools can address mental health concerns?

MP: I think the number one thing kids can do to destigmatize this issue is to have open and frank dialogues about it. For too long, mental health has been this capped issue where, if people are suffering, they don’t feel comfortable reaching out. If people know someone who’s suffering, it’s considered embarrassing to share that information. We need to get over the stigma if we’re going to tackle mental illness.

B&W: What specific things have you done during your time as SMOB for mental health?

MP: The Suicide Awareness Program is going to put in every high school and middle school, we’re going to distribute a list to all high schools and middle schools with resources and tips for mental health. We’re going to start hosting more of these forums. Back when I was just running for SMOB, I went to the state legislature a couple times to advocate for a bill called Lauryn’s Law, which requires all teachers to be trained to recognize the signs of mental illness in students. That passed and went into effect this year, so every single staff member was required to learn the signs of depression or else they couldn’t be a classroom with students. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m going to keep chipping away at the stigma and push for change.

B&W: What is your greatest challenge? Do you feel like your voice is heard as a student on a panel of adults?

MP: My biggest challenge has been there’s a lot of bureaucracy in the system. It’s sort of been disappointing to see that a lot of the things I wanted to do will not be possible in one term. A lot of my work has been laying the groundwork for my successors to get things done. But my colleagues have been amazing. I sit on the shoulder of giants, there have been 39 amazing SMOBs that came before me and they really set the precedent for the maturity and poise of the SMOB. It is with that built up respect that I am able to get things done and curry favor with my colleagues.

B&W: What advice do you have for future SMOBs?

MP: Do not give up. This job is grueling; it’s a full time job. It is tough. The challenges ahead are terrifying, but if you put your head down and do the work, progress can be made and a better future can be forged.