PARMA, Ohio – The Parma City School District recently held its second Mental Health Summit where high school student leaders met for an all-day event at Parma High School.
“Every year we train 50 to 100 students from all three high schools to be mental health ambassadors for their buildings,” said Parma High School counselor Marianne Armstrong, who coordinated the Mental Health Summit.
“Our region has adopted a suicide prevention approach by Hope Squad outside Utah to support these programs. We train our ambassadors in monthly meetings to identify suicidal thoughts or mental health problems in their peers and to be the bridge between the needy and the adult.”
On November 22, nearly 50 participating students—members of the Hope Squad at their high school chosen by their peers to be mental health ambassadors—spent the day at Parma High School in training sessions.
“It helps students monitor social media for signs of crisis and connect with those in need,” Armstrong said. “Our community partners—the Adams Board of Directors, Recovery Resources, Ohio Guidestone and NAMI—presented a series of workshops for our students during our summit.
“We hope they pulled off the top with a better understanding of mental health and a renewed desire to help those in need.”
Expected to be an annual event going forward, the Mental Health Summit first took off in 2019 but was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The person who attended her second mental health conference is Adonia Vlahopoulos from Valley Forge High School.
“It’s nice to be a part of this,” Vlahopoulos said. “It’s refreshing. Being able to come here again and see how it’s done with the three high schools is exciting. I’m glad the Mental Health Summit is in a more visible place because it has so much focus on it.”
Gage Wellman, a sophomore at Normandy High School, appreciated providing students with various resources.
“One of the most important things I will keep myself from this event are the different forms of anxiety, depression, trauma, how to help someone with these things and how to recognize them,” Wellman said.
“This is a massive event that brings together all three high schools. It was really great to see this happen after COVID.”
On how the Mental Health Summit and the Band of Hope are impacting students in need, Parma High School eighth grader Viviana Cabrera spoke about the bigger picture.
“It was a great honor to be nominated by my colleagues to be able to participate in the Hope Squad and to be a part of this event,” Cabrera said.
“It means that people feel they can come to me and talk to me about their problems. They feel they can trust me, and I can get the help they need.”
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