MCPS and the Montgomery County Council of PTAs hosted the second annual Mental Health and Wellness Forum Jan. 12. The event offered 11 hourlong workshops to over 250 attendees on subjects ranging from stress and anxiety to teen depression.
The forum included a keynote address from former Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse and a student discussion led by Student Member of the Board Ananya Tadikonda. Ortman-Fouse introduced the event and spoke about misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses. The forum also included an eight-hour-long mental health First Aid training, where attendees learned how to respond to the signs of mental illness.
“Every school should be a sanctuary for students, where kids feel accepted, valued and ready to learn,” Ortman-Fouse said. “[The Montgomery County superintendent] has recommended 20 additional counseling staff, but we need more than that.”
Along with the workshops, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Parent Encouragement Program distributed mental health literature.
Psychologist Karen Crist, presenter of the BtheOne campaign, taught students how to respond to signs of mental illness. They also urged attendants to advocate for mental health initiatives and reach out to teens in need.
“Across the country, there’s a lack of funding for dealing with mental health,” Crist said. “Suicide is preventable and parents and friends should know warning signs and when to respond.”
Community members said they liked that there was so much information available at the event and that the county co-sponsored it.
“It shows the county really wants to take the time to address mental health issues,” parent Regina Morales said. “It’s another step in the right direction.”