Is mental health getting the recognition it deserves?

The Parkway Board of Education holds a meeting to discuss mental health in teens


Liora Hoi

A graphic created to visualize mental wellness. Students throughout the Parkway School District met with the Board of Education concerning mental health issues facing teens.

The clock ticked in deafening silence after Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Holman-Besse, a board member, made her opening statement. Fifteen participants mulled the question: “How does poor mental health affect you?”

November marked the first meeting between the Parkway Board of Education (BOE) and students in an attempt to tackle the mental health epidemic in high schools. The meeting was proposed and held by Holman-Besse, who wanted to fix the BOE’s unfamiliarity with students’ mental health problems by asking students who might have experience with it. Junior Krish Bhagat attended the meeting to share his expertise as co-leader of the Mental Health Awareness club, and senior Lauren McLeod attended to contribute her experiences. 

“A lot of [the meeting] was about balance in everyone’s lives and about how some people are comfortable in a downward mental spiral, which is not okay or normal,” Bhagat said.

The students represented all grade levels to share their experiences and ideas in exchange for a plan for the BOE.

“The [BOE] might plan to use [the meeting] as a point of reference to guide future decisions, but I genuinely wish higher-ups did more outreach in the school because this is an important and upfront issue that isn’t being addressed to the point it should be. I would like to see what they do with what we gave them,” McLeod said.

The meeting took place in the cafeteria of South Middle School after participants were provided with a complimentary dinner of pizza, calzones and salads.

“I wasn’t a fan of the circle. I thought it was informal and hard to hear. I think it’s hard to listen to people when you can’t see them, and there was a lot of people you couldn’t see. The meeting would have been better if it was in a conference room,” Bhagat said. 

Due to the 45-minute time frame, students were not satisfied by the discussion level.

“Given the timeframe that we had, we were not able to go in depth. We threw out problems, and we didn’t get a lot back; it felt like [the BOE] was skimming the surface level of the problem, and they didn’t seem interested in going more in-depth,” McLeod said.

In the future, McLeod would like more involvement and participation from the BOE in mental health. 

“I would like more frequent meetings, maybe twice a month, more mental health days, and more intention to incite real change. This is a big step up from the cold wall we are normally met with when speaking to [the BOE], but they need to keep going,” McLeod said.