Mental health summit puts focus on well-being for students

New partnership expanding access to social-emotional supports 

Just three weeks into her freshman year at North Forest High School, Mi’Kalia Allen can already see just how challenging her new journey may be and says she will take all the help she can get – especially when it comes to navigating the pressures of high school life.  

Mi’Kalia, along with 300 other students, took part in the district’s first-ever Mental Health Youth Summit on Friday to promote mental well-being in the classroom and school community.   

“They say that the ninth grade is your most important year,” she said. “I am hoping that this will help me, because it is already starting to get difficult.”  

The summit, sponsored by LyondellBasell and hosted by WE – Well-being, provided students with specific tools and resources to support their own mental health as well as the mental well-being of others at their respective campuses. Students engaged in activities, workshops, and conversations around stigma reduction, mental-health literacy, and action plans for their schools. 

“I can really see the benefit of the knowledge here that I can not only bring back to myself but to others,” North Forest Freshman Terrance Evans said. “I love teaching others and encouraging others in their life.” 

Moments before the start of the summit, Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan and community partners announced the expansion of district mental health and social emotional supports for students. 

Through this new mental health and wellness initiative, hundreds of HISD students at 15 campuses will have direct access to school administrators trained in trauma, crisis, abuse, and suicide prevention. This initiative is part of Lathan’s strategic priorities for the 2019-2020 school year to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students. 

“Social and emotional learning, anti-bullying, and crisis intervention efforts are a priority for the district,” Lathan said. “We want to take away the stigma of mental illness and raise student awareness around mental health in the district.” 

The initiative includes a partnership with the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work to provide group counseling and social services to students. Other community partners in the initiative include  Sewa International, CapCityKids, and The Menninger Clinic. 

Schools participating in the initiative include Dogan, Hartsfield, and Rucker elementary schools; Attucks, Fleming, Holland, M.C. Williams, Sugar Grove, and Thomas middle schools; Liberty, Madison, Washington, Westside, Wisdom, and Yates high schools. 

Throughout the summit, students learned mental health promotion strategies that can help them build safe and caring environments. As the day ended, students were empowered to reduce the stigma around mental health by becoming “Mental Fitness Influencers,” and Mi’Kalia is ready for that challenge.  

“I want to help other kids understand that they can do anything  process anything – without being stressed,” she said. “I want others to know that it is OK to go to someone and ask for help.”