Teachers talk mental health

Mia Feizbakhsh

“Does Harvard-Westlake (HW) talk enough about Mental Health?”, this is the question a teacher from each academic department at the Middle School (MS) was asked. The context behind this question is the month of May, also known as Mental Health awareness month, and the importance of being educated in regards to the psychological issues many teens face.

Geometry 9 and Geometry teacher Gregg Ross, was quick to say that HW successfully addresses all the needs of the students, but that there is obviously room for improvement. He gave a well-geared, neutral response that pushes for the increased advocation of mental health, while also complementing the school.

“We can definitely do more, I think HW does a really good job but I think there’s always an opportunity to just bring more awareness to Mental Health issues” Ross reported.

History teacher Rosemary VanVlighmen agreed, saying that, during her tenure at HW, issues regarding mental health were adequately addressed.

“During my 13 years here, there have been constant conversations with the deans, school psychologists, but also with our human development team (which I work with) on how to create tools for students, so that they can have a place for students when they’re feeling stressed” VanVlijmen explained.

Over the last 13 years, the school has begun to open up the conversation about the well-being of students more and more, but the school alone isn’t responsible, the stigma around mental health as begun to break down within society.

“Every year they [the school] has incrementally gotten better and better about it [mental health]. It’s a main goal, and if you’d asked me that question eight years ago I’d say “not as much as it should”. But now? The reason I’m aware that it is higher is because my awareness is higher” English teacher Adam Rose remarked.

Teachers like Rose and Vanlighmen, who have been working at the school for many years, have very similar opinions about the subject, but from World Languages teacher Andrew Brabbée’s perspective, who has been at the school for two decades, Mental Health is scarcely mentioned.

“I haven’t heard the school talk, really at all, about Mental Health in the time that I’ve been here… I think the school has a pretty good system in place- at least recently” Brabbée reported.

Science teacher Alex Ras also responded to the question, pondering if Mental Health will ever be talked about enough.

“I just don’t know what ‘an amount’ of talking about Mental Health would be enough. I don’t know if that’s a checkpoint [we] can have” Ras stated.