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Milford High School staff and students prioritize mental health initiatives

By Molly Stoker and Dale Kalber Student Writers

The Milford High School community has continued to make students and staff’s mental health a top priority and there are many advocates working both behind the scenes and outwardly to make those improvements a reality. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “In 2021, more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly 1/3 (29%) experienced poor mental health.” The MHS faculty and students are persistently providing support for one another's emotional well-being.

MPS Director of Social Emotional Learning Lisa Kingkade shares, “If students' mental health isn’t addressed then everything else is really difficult. In order for us to have students achieve, we need to make sure they feel good and they have the supports in place to achieve academically.”

Students agree that mental health has to be a matter of greatest importance. 

Junior Eve Gergis, started her own Mental Health Alliance Club this past year at MHS and is an advocate for students’ mental well-being. Gergis’ new club strives to destigmatize mental health and promote talking about the subject. 

One of Gergis’s main initiatives she would like to see is in the education of teachers on mental health related issues. Gergis states “… there are small ways we can educate teachers on how to support different students and not solely by giving them extensions.”

When talking about how to take care of oneself, she also says, “When you're on an airplane, they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before you can help others and that’s kind of how I’ve chosen to live my life.”

The advisor of the Mental Health Alliance Club is Jenna Smith. She sheds some light as both a teacher and leader of the community.

Ms. Smith comments, “By having this club, and creating the safe space that we have planned, students will know they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to.” This club allows for a calm shelter from the storm that can be  high school. 

MHS has other programs working in many different ways and are trying to find methods that work for the community. 

Kingkade explains, “Here at the high school, we’ve been working with a program called JED … a group of 12 of us were trained who will be training staff in the upcoming months and also students. The idea is to have the peer-support group without the counselors.”

Staff is being trained on Emotional CPR (ECPR) and how to set up a student-led support group. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “This training is a practice in how to listen. You are going to be listening without doing anything, but being emotionally present.”

Associate Principal William Chaplin is a strong advocate for the mental health of students. He discusses the future initiatives that would be put in place at the future high school building. “Community learning spaces as well as outdoor learning spaces. Student lounges where kids can go in and chill out, make a cup of tea if they want … similar to what adults have.” Chaplin hopes for a new high school to be built within 5-6 years. 

In the current high school, there is limited space and not a lot of natural sunlight within some of the classrooms. Chaplin comments, “Students in this building go through the whole day … and never see daylight … [in the new building] more light, that helps everything.”

Mr. Chaplin states, “[This is a] fast paced world, and [it’s] a life skill everyone has to learn throughout early adulthood and adulthood of just trying to pause and focus on their own selfcare and that is mental health and wellness.”