Last night, MCPS’s county-wide newspaper, “The Amplifier,” helped organize a mental health forum to allow students, staff, and parents to address their mental health concerns in MCPS. This Zoom meeting was covered by the local Channel 4 News, and it sparked a protest happening today outside of the school board headquarters for a further emphasis on mental health services and the removal of SROs.
The meeting was divided into two parts: an opportunity for student speakers to share their concerns to the panelists—which consisted of MoCo representatives like county councilmember Tom Hucker and SMOB Hana O’Looney, as well as a variety of mental health professionals—and a Q&A session. The event had a great turnout, with about 25 panelists, and 50 viewers consistently.
The main concerns discussed by the students were gaining more access to mental health resources, and communicating the resources when they were implemented. One student in particular talked about how some teachers take advantage of time allotted for mental health focus, while another recognized the need for counselors designated to mental and emotional health regulation. The mental health of students affected by the increase of violence in MCPS schools was also brought up.
The Q&A section was moderated by The Blake Beat’s own co-editor-in-chief, Kat Comer, and The Amplifier’s editor, Michael Shapiro, who directed the questions asked to different panelists based on the content. Although, there were a large number of questions asked, so some were answered in text rather than out loud. Many of the questions asked were for specific, individual situations, but some of the topics addressed were broader and able to be answered publicly. They addressed that the need for different mental health programs implemented need to be communicated more, and each program will have to be appropriate for each grade—a mental health curriculum put in place for fifth graders can’t be used for high schoolers too.
One of the other questions answered was “In the MCPS proposed budget for next school year, are there added counselors, psychologists or social worker positions?” which SMOB Hana O’Looney covered. She mentioned that there’s a lack of mental health professionals so they can’t hire them if they’re not available, even if they have the budget set aside. But, they’re working on other ways to support staff and students, and making a plan to teach them how to be their own support structure.
Throughout the entirety of the forum, plenty of resources for mental health assistance were provided in order to help support MCPS’s students, staff, and parents. The EveryMind hotline has a list of some of these resources, so contact them and a trusted adult if the need arises. We all are working together to help the mental health of everyone in MCPS in these trying times, so remember to be kind to one another.