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Leon County School District raising mental health awareness with new PSA videos

(WCTV)
Published: Sep. 9, 2019 at 5:18 PM EDT
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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 9, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- In the midst of a national mental health crisis, the Leon County School District is being proactive, and starting a conversation about children and teens' mental health.

The district created two PSAs, using high school students from the region as actors in the videos.

Many of the teens had theater backgrounds, and were ready to put those skills to use for a good cause.

"It's something every teenager goes through and needs to know, every teenager goes through," said Godby High School senior Chokwe Bennett.

Bennett has his own ways of dealing with stress.

"I'm a venter, I vent to my friends," said Bennett. "If that doesn't work, as a performer, my go to for stress, even if it's stressing me, is to let it out onstage."

Other students also rely on their peers for support.

"I try to have a free day with friends as often as possible in order to balance the stress and the work," said Apryl Walker, a junior at Godby High School.

"I have a few designated friends that I talk to," said Katelyn Shipley, a sophomore at Leon High School.

The school district has partnered with the Neighborhood Medical Center, with goals of encouraging children to speak out about how they feel, and asking parents to watch for warning signs.

The two new PSAs feature high school students speaking to two groups; fellow students, and parents.

"I know a few people, that suffer mentally with their home life, whether it be anxiety or depression, diagnosed or not," said Bennett.

"I thought it was definitely an important thing; it's definitely a serious issue that needs to be taken care of and spoken on, so I thought it was a good thing," said Godby senior Trey Fisher.

The students were excited to see the finished product; Shipley said it wasn't quite what she expected.

"It's just a lot more impactful than we really expected it to be," she said.

Another positive aspect for the students participating was the ability to help others their age.

"I know that sometimes I struggle with having thoughts, so I thought it was really good for me to try to speak to others and try to help them out as well," said Walker.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna and his wife Christy joined WCTV's morning newscast, speaking about teenage suicide and their efforts to help.

Christy Han knows that pain firsthand; her son Hunter took his own life, at just 15.

She urged parents to look for signs and be present in their children's lives.

"Sometimes things that you think are normal, but if you were to ask, and be present, and say what's going on, that type of stuff," said Hanna.

The PSA designed for parents describes warning signs such as students' grades slipping, children not caring about activities they used to enjoy, and irregular sleeping patterns.

The video for teens urged students to talk to someone, reminding them that they are not alone, and that people care about them.

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