Mental health specialist panel educates NT parents

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In an effort to educate parents and students on mental health, specifically depression, the school invited several panelists to introduce the topic as well as answer audience produced questions.
The panel was made up of representatives from Willow House, Haven Youth and Family Services, Erika’s Lighthouse, and Dr. Jonathan Singer, an expert on adolescent depression from Loyola University.
The event began just after 7:00pm with an audience of about 60 parents and 10 students. Upon entering Cornog Auditorium, each audience member was offered a piece of paper to write a question to ask the panel.
Questions asked by the audience, and selected by principal Denise Dubravec, lead the event to focus on the signs of depression in adolescents, with a secondary focus on the treatment of depression.
The signs outlined included over- and under-sleeping and eating, withdrawal from previous interests, extreme moodiness, and other changes in personality.
Beyond the signs of depression, Singer also described factors that may increase the likelihood of depression. He cited poverty, high stress, as well as a family history of depression as being just a few of these factors.
On the home front, it was suggested that parents listen and talk with their child to better understand their wellbeing. For parents that struggle to talk with their child, this included strategies such as finding common interests as well as talking in the car.
Additionally, several different styles of therapy as well as different programs were introduced over the course of the evening as methods to help with depression.
Singer, as well as the representatives from the other groups, agreed that there is no one magic pill that can be taken to cure depression, and often solutions involve a mixture of therapy and if needed medication as well.
Patricia Sheridan, Junior Girls’ Adviser Chair at New Trier, emphasized the schools willingness to create custom plans for individuals in need of help that may interfere with academics.
Sheridan explained that certain accommodations must be made for individuals participating in after school intensive programs.
“The student doesn’t have five hours after school to do homework” acknowledged Sheridan.The school also reported that social work has had at least one meeting with 25% of students. This percentage shows the many students the school is able to aid through the social work department.
Beyond social work, the school also trains each teacher in QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer.) a training course that teaches teachers to recognize suicidal ideations and warning signs.
While the panel was in agreement that the rates of depression have increased in recent years, the discussion focused mainly on parental action rather than conversations among peers in a school setting.
The event was exclusively advertised to parents, despite the center of conversation being on teen mental health. The lack of information given to students left most students unaware of the event’s existence.
Within the forum the school representatives highlighted their efforts to bring these conversations into the students’ lives, citing units in the freshmen health class as examples of such incorporation.
The event concluded with the question of how mental health awareness will be applied to the lives of the students.

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