BALTIMORE COUNTY— A new, year-long campaign started this week to help spread awareness of the issue of suicide and focus on prevention in Baltimore County schools.
The Mind Over Matters campaign, a collaborative effort among the Division of School Climate and Safety, the Division of Human Resources and the Department of Communications and Community Outreach was launched this Tuesday which was World Suicide Prevention Day. The campaign will continue throughout the school year and will have a different theme each month.
The catalyst behind this campaign came from a concerned Pikesville student.
“I’ve started seeing more of my friends depressed and talking about how they hate their lives,” said Omer Reshid, student member of the Board of Education of Baltimore County and a Pikesville High senior. “Even if it starts as joking, the conversations get serious.”
Omer’s empathy for his fellow students led him to champion student mental health, which is also a growing concern among Baltimore county student councils leaders.
“We are listening to our students,” said Dr. Amalio Nieves, executive director of the Department of Social-Emotional Support. “They are asking us to provide more supports, and we want them to be aware of the number of mental health professionals already available to them in their schools and in the community.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the percentage of children ages 6 to seventeen ever diagnosed with anxiety or depression increased by 56 percent from 2003 to 2011-2012 (from 5.4 percent to 8.4 percent). More than 17 percent of children ages 2 to 8 have diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorders.
“We are seeing an increase in the intensity of mental health needs,” said Patricia Mustipher, LCSW-C, coordinator of School Social Work and Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Baltimore County Public Schools.
“These mental health needs are complex and involve many systems of support that intersect with schools. I think that the rigor of expectations has increased for everyone and that we all have more visibility and more ways to judge how we feel and how people feel about us.”
To address students’ hesitance in talking to adults, Omer is working with the Department of Social-Emotional Support to launch a corps of students who can serve as Social-Emotional Learning Ambassadors.
“The plan,” Omer said, “is to train these ambassadors to be a peer resource for students who might be scared or reluctant to talk to an adult. They will also be there to know all the resources available in the school and to guide students to them.”
Throughout the month, the BCPS community will be encouraged to take photos using an ear prop and to post them on social media using the #IWillListen, and students will be encouraged to take the #IWillListen pledge.