BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — During Mental Illness Awareness Week October 2-8, Maumee High School students Nadia and Hala Jabri set up a display for students to peruse in the morning.
Nadia, MHS student council president and Hala, freshman class president, had wanted to provide an informative display regarding mental health to their peers.
Hala submitted a proposal to MHS principal Scott Perrotte to state the importance of the week and provide context on why a display table was important.
“We wanted to help bring awareness regarding mental health, reduce the stigma and let other teens know they are not alone and can get help because we know that there are a lot of kids who have felt or are currently experiencing depression, anxiety and even have thoughts of or have attempted suicide,” Hala said.
In the proposal, Hala outlined findings from Healthy Lucas County’s 2019-20 Community Health Assessment. In the assessment, students from seven local school districts, including Maumee, were polled and answered questions regarding mental health among other topics.
The surveys, which were done in November and December of 2019, found that, based on the 1,033 respondents in grades 6-12, 17 percent of Lucas County’s youth had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Hala said this meant that if there are approximately 700 students at MHS, around 119 of those students would have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
The health assessment also found that approximately 38 percent of Lucas County youths reported they felt so sad or hopeless every day for two or more weeks, they stopped doing some usual activities.
“There is sometimes a negative stigma associated with mental illness, so we wanted to let kids know that it’s more common than they realize and that they’re not alone and to provide information on where teens can get help if they need it,” Nadia said.
When the two students campaigned for their positions, they said they wanted to improve awareness regarding mental health issues and provide information and resources.
Staying committed to that campaign promise, they used the table setup to provide resources for their fellow students, including brochures and flyers from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Toledo, Harbor and the Kobacker Center at The University of Toledo Medical Center. The three organizations also provided small giveaway items, including T-shirts, fidget spinners, blankets and mugs.
The two students used these items along with Amazon gift cards donated by Eddie Campos and small items the girls purchased to create four gift baskets to give away, which helped draw more people to the table to engage in discussion.
“I think that from this experience we learned that some kids were scared to come up to the booth and needed a lot of encouragement to come up,” Nadia said.
Additionally, a guidance counselor was at the table if students found they needed someone to talk to more about the topic.
Hala added that many students and teachers said they were grateful the girls had decided to take on this project in order to keep up the discussion. She wanted those at her school to know if they are struggling, they are not alone and there are resources available to them.
Hala has made it her mission to continue to raise awareness, and in January she will be representing Maumee as Jr. Teen Maumee in the United States American Miss Ohio pageant. Her platform is “Mental Health Awareness and The Crown CARES (Creating a Respectful Environment in Schools).”
Nadia also hopes to do more with her platform and advocate for accessible mental health education and support.
“I plan to try and educate even more people on mental health issues to help bring greater awareness,” Nadia said. “We may be able to do something again in May for Mental Health Awareness Month, and we are planning on walking in the NAMI Toledo walk on May 20, 2023 to display support for people affected by mental health conditions.”
NAMI of Greater Toledo provides support, advocacy and education regarding mental health in the greater Toledo area. More information can be found at namitoledo.org.
Harbor is a mental health and substance use disorder treatment provider with several locations in Northwest Ohio. The website is harbor.org.
The Kobacker Center specializes in meeting the needs of children and teens with serious emotional and behavioral needs and their families. More information is available on the website https://utmc.utoledo.edu/depts/kobacker/.
The Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County promotes mental health, the prevention of substance abuse and assisting in the recovery process for those experiencing mental illness and/or alcohol and other drug disorders. The website is lcmhrsb.oh.gov.
A 24-hour CrisisCare Line is available at (419) 904-2273, and NAMI provides a 24/7 crisis support text line which is available by texting NAMI to 741-741. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24/7 by calling or texting 988.