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Neuqua Valley Students Talk Mental Health With Surgeon General

“It’s important that we teach young people to have the coping skills and where to find resources in their communities during these low moments because the feelings of isolation and uncertainty and questioning their self-worth doesn’t go away,” said U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.

The congresswoman was joined by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy via a virtual connection for a discussion at Neuqua Valley High School on mental health on Monday. The event came just two months after two Neuqua students died by suicide. At a subsequent Indian Prairie School District 204 board meeting, some students pressed the board for more mental health resources. At Monday’s event, twelve Neuqua students who are involved in programs for mental health were chosen to take part in the discussion with the Congresswoman and Surgeon General.

Normalizing Mental Health Help

Andrew Fargo, a junior at Neuqua discussed how mental health should be seen as if you go to the doctor when you’re hurt or sick. “You know it’s seen as like a personal problem, which is why we discuss it with our peers. It’s really like a healthcare thing.”

The Surgeon General issued an advisory back in December on the mental health crisis in the country caused by the pandemic. During Monday’s event he asked the students questions about their experiences with mental health and what more can be done.

Resources Used, And Needed

One student spoke of the value of being able to have access to a school counselor “I’ve had some really rough nights and just being able to talk to someone who is just right there accessible and can sort of sit in that outside perspective and having all the wisdom, having gone through being an adolescent and just being there and saying: ‘you know, this is what you’re doing already, this is great. You know, you are enough.’ I think that’s really, really powerful. And that is, that has really helped me,” said junior Logan Carlson.

Another felt that having a school counselor wasn’t always enough “A lot of my peers don’t feel connected necessarily with the resources we have here. If you haven’t went to like the counselors or social workers before, you might not feel that personal connection enough to where you can share something you’re really struggling with,” said Emily Morgan, senior at Neuqua.

Congresswoman Underwood, a 2004 Neuqua Valley graduate, explained how she used available school resources when she was a student. “I had weekly appointments every week with our school social worker, every week because the pressures of achieving, the pressures of balancing what I wanted my future to be.”

Future Plans

Dr. Murthy brought up ideas of launching new support systems for mental health in schools. “We have to understand how we can better integrate schools, I believe, with health care providers and clinics. The problem is we just don’t invest much in these programs. We don’t fund schools, actually implement these programs, and we don’t provide them the technical assistance to actually put these programs in place. But those are partnerships that we can build.”

For Naperville News 17, I’m Tim Jacobi.

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