Student from across the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District attended the Nassau County Youth Wellness Summit at the district’s Brookside building on March 28.
Hosted by The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, this summit aims to promote methods and practices for wellness and mental health that can help students with problem solving, goal setting, leadership, and overall well-being.
Theana Cheliotes, a social worker at Wellington C. Mepham High School, said that the summit starts the mental health conversation.
“Many adolescents struggle to have these hard conversations, and the summit serves as a model to teach students it’s okay to talk about these things,” she explained. “By breaking the stigmatization of mental health issues and acknowledging that it is a real and valid struggle, it opens up the dialogue for teenagers to become more comfortable reaching out for help.”
Breakout sessions focused on coping skills, self-esteem, healthy relationships and effective communication.
Cheliotes served on the committee to help organize the day’s events. She also co-led a workshop with Marissa Ohriner, a Tempo school social worker at Mepham, called Through My Eyes that allows juniors to think about the way in which they perceive themselves, others and the world.
“The students were able to gain an understanding of the connection between their thoughts, perceptions, and assumptions,” Cheliotes explained. “We lead a discussion regarding how assumptions made about us from social media, peers, family and culture influence one’s perception. The students engaged in activities that demonstrated breaking free of the labels that may be placed upon them and declaring who they truly are.”
Organizations such as Nassau Guidance and Counseling, Tempo Group and South Oaks Hospital were represented during the resource fair to connect students and staff to services they can provide.
“There is a significant increase in adolescents suffering from eating disorders, substance use, anxiety and depression,” Cheliotes explained. “The ability for families to find care that they need has also been difficult.”
Schools across the county were invited to send three sophomores and three juniors, as well as two faculty members to this no cost event. The main goal of having student engagement during the Summit is to create a network of peer support to bring back to their school.
“Students are able to share the information and knowledge they have learned to serve as an advocate and peer mentor for others in hopes to increase the sense of belonging and community,” Cheliotes added.
Date Added: 3/31/2023