Demystifying Mental Health: Mental Health Awareness Week

BT students and faculty explored important questions about mental health at BT High School’s second annual Mental Health Awareness Week.
Mental health has become a matter of national concern, with Mental Health Awareness day in May and Mental Illness Awareness - Suicide/Depression throughout the month of October. Beth Tfiloh High School students and teachers talk and think about mental health on a regular basis, thanks to the guidance and support of High School Counselor Mrs. Rochelle Sullivan.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Last year, Mrs. Sullivan launched Mental Health Awareness Week, designed to demystify mental health and mental illness, while delivering the message to our students that it is “okay not to be okay.” This week carved out a safe space in High School students’ lives to talk openly about difficult topics such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, and OCD, but also to teach about mental wellness.

“We go to the doctor for the flu. We send flowers to those who are sick in the hospital,” said Mrs. Sullivan. “But we are at a loss of what to do or say to a person who might be struggling with a mental health issue.”

Tools and Strategies for Good Mental Health

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week once again included a day with area mental health professionals and speakers spanning a variety of professional backgrounds and areas of expertise. The speakers provided BT students with accurate and clear information about mental health, medications, diagnoses, treatments and practical advice. They also discussed tools, language and strategies that they know to be effective in supporting good mental health, such as regular physical activity, avoiding drugs and alcohol, connecting with one another in person, being involved and engaged, noticing if someone needs help, and asking for help themselves.

Reducing Anxiety through Education
The week wrapped up with a screening of Angst: Raising Awareness around Anxiety for parents and students, with a community mental health professionals Q&A. Following the film, Dr. Michael Labellarte, Dr. Sam Greenberg, and Dr. Fran Appler fielded questions about teen anxiety from parents and students in the audience.

The American Psychological Association describes a person with an anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” Once anxiety reaches the stage of a disorder, it can interfere with daily function. “As a professional, I see anxiety often, with more and more students recognizing these feelings in themselves, and more parents looking for guidance,” said Mrs. Sullivan during her opening remarks at the Angst screening. “Panic attacks, restlessness, distorted thinking, and a host of other manifestations of anxiety affect our children. Even the College Board has recently expanded its recognition of anxiety to better accommodate students.”

Keeping the Conversation Going
Mental Health Awareness Week is just one part of Beth Tfiloh’s comprehensive approach to developing our students’ social and emotional health and wellbeing. For more information, contact our guidance staff:
• High School: Mrs. Rochelle Sullivan, 410-413-2424,
• Middle School: Mrs. Nikki Elgamil, 410-413-2326,
• Lower School: Dr. Elana Weissman, 410-413-2514,
• PreSchool: Mrs. Vicki Hervitz, 410-486-2326,

Additional Resources:
BETH TFILOH Dahan Community School
Roz & Marvin H. Weiner Family Campus | 3300 Old Court Road, Baltimore, MD 21208 | 410-486-1905 |