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Harford County students address mental health: "let's start the conversation"

Posted: 11:32 PM, May 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-07 13:04:10Z

HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — One in five teens has or will have a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That's just one of the alarming statistics when it comes to student mental health. Students in Harford County are working to change those numbers.

"This is an okay topic to have a conversation about," said Joshua Oltarzewski, a student member on the Board of Education for Harford County. He added, "one of the big things that everybody struggles with is making that conversation and how can we vocalize are feelings and what we're struggling with."

Oltarzewski started the Student Health Council to help middle and high school students, with help from Christian Walker.

"We know there is a problem. We know students want help but maybe they're not actively seeking that help out," said Walker, the incoming student member on the Board of Education for Harford County.

They want to reach as many students as possible and support them. The Student Mental Health Council started in February of 2018, just to get the conversation started. They have members from people throughout the county and hope the conversation expands.

"It's harder when you don't talk about it. It puts more of a burden on yourself," said Haley Slaughter, one of the members of the council.

It's a burden that could cause students to quit on themselves, drop out of school, or committing suicide.

"Mental health should be addressed as physical health needs. They are just as important and unaddressed they lead to physics health problems," said Christina Alton, the Mental Health Specialist for Harford County. She added, "if we are going to help with mental health stigma and reduce it, I think it’s students who are going to lead us."

The conversation has started and now these students hope to work towards concrete events, involving the community.

"What are those action items we can bring into schools into communities to really facilitate that conversation even further," said Oltarzewski.