Go to the Lunch and Learns, cowards

We at the New Trier News have written about mental health extensively, and rightfully so. It has been an important topic of conversation and cause for concern in this community, as well as throughout the rest of the country.

Conversations in classrooms, school board meanings, and
frantic Nextdoor chat rooms, have been shrouded in this enormous, seemingly undefinable issue of how to improve the mental health of our teenagers.

When there is uncertainty about an issue, it is human nature to look for simple causes and easily definable solutions.

The assumption becomes that for students at NT, distress is caused by too many AP classes or upcoming exams.

Self-care becomes a 5 minute meditation in advisery or putting
on a charcoal face mask. Managing mental health is more than stress-tip posters in the hallways during finals.

I love face masks as much as the next basic teenage girl, but genuine mental health is so much deeper and complex.

There is no way to boil down what can affect your mental well being.

Yes, academics play a role,
but it can also be a product of your social life, family, relationships, romance, sense of self, performance in school, fulfillment with what you’re doing, money, physical health, your future, having a sense of

control and agency in your life, your identity, and…. The list goes on.

Every boomer’s favorite culprit for the uptick in depression and suicide in teens is social media; unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Without a single source to blame, magnitude of the topic mental health can make even starting to talk about the topic feel overwhelming.

However, to the credit of the school’s administration, the social work department, and student leaders, a new initiative has begun: Lunch and Learns.

I think these programs are
a great way to start increasing knowledge and understanding
of mental health, can in turn help dismantle some of the stigma surrounding it in our own community.

I went to the first Lunch and Learn, and was pleased. I got a
free cookie and learned about how the brain reacts to stress and why (chemically) we feel stress, anxiety, depression.

I really appreciate that this was a collaboration with student leaders, and I also think it is fantastic that these are weekly programs rather than a single day or session.

Long term and continuous conversation is what we need in order to destigmatize mental illness, learn strategies to support our friends, and take care of ourselves.

The long term nature of the project also allows for more specific sessions with topics ranging from eating disorders to LGBTQIA+ issues to depression.

Overall I think these lunches can be informative. I enjoyed the session I went to, and I think the other (approximately) 7 people in attendance did as well.

Herein lies my only concern. Students have been asking for more discussions about mental health, but when given the space to do so, attendance is abysmal.

This may be largely because we Trevians have an uncanny ability to block out the morning announcements over the loudspeaker.

I don’t think I have consciously heard the pledge of allegiance in months, and though I went to the first session, I didn’t know there were more Lunch and Learns to follow.

Though the low level of attendance is somewhat disappointing, I do not think it means that students do not care about mental health – in fact, it may be symptomatic of the issues these lunches are trying to address.

Beyond kids just not knowing about them at all, many students do not feel like they can spare a free period or their lunch to learn about mental health despite it being one of the most important things we need to learn about while we’re in high school.

I also think that some students may feel that going to the session would inadvertently send a message to people that they somehow have or are connected to mental illness.

This exemplifies the stigma that our community holds regarding mental health and is yet another reason why we need these sessions so badly.

Lunch and Learns aren’t going to teach us everything, but they
can be an important start. We are being offered this resource and I am hopeful that more kids will take advantage of it.