The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Student mental health alliance formed

Hannah Shahidi/Chronicle
Junior mental health alliance leaders Dennett Stibel ’25, Rachel Reiff ’25, Sunny Lu ’25 and Micah Parr ’25 pose together.

The school created the Student Mental Health Alliance, an organization focused on bringing awareness to mental health issues and reducing the stigma around mental illnesses.The organization is a part of the school’s Mental Health and Wellness Plan, designed to provide an additional resource for students amid recent tragedies on campus. It features several individual clubs, each targeting a specific issue regarding mental health.

Upper School Counselor Michelle Bracken said the organization combines students’ individual efforts to address mental health issues into one large organization.

“Last May, I started getting a lot of students reaching out and saying [that they] had an idea for mental health,” Bracken said. “I started seeing that there were lots of people that had interest in [forming] new clubs. I talked to [Dean of Students Jordan Church], saying that there could be an increase in mental health clubs. It just kept growing into this a group of students that [wanted to] come up with ideas.”

Bracken said having peers to talk to about mental health can encourage students to reach out for help as needed.

“Teenagers tend to be adult-averse,” Bracken said. “ [Students] don’t want to talk to adults about [their] problems. I think there are lots of reasons why adults don’t understand the same way that [students] do. Your friend is much easier to talk to.”

Upper School Dean Jamie Chan said allowing students to work with counselors will provide more insight on how to connect with students to the adults on campus.

“Having students work with counselors [and] giving them a lens into the life of a kid will help our counseling team and adults in general be better counselors as well as help them deal with current issues,” Chan said. “We don’t know what we don’t know. This is helpful now that we have students also coming up with ideas of how to reach students and speak their language.”

Co-leader Sunny Lu ’25 said she hopes to educate students on mental health in order to prevent future incidents.

“From all of the tragedies that had happened in our school, I feel like we need to take the next step to prevent this from ever happening again,” Lu said. “We need to bring more awareness to mental illness.”

Lu said students in the alliance will be trained to connect with students on a personal level while still maintaining a professional attitude that is similar to those of the school counselors.

“We’ll get some training on how to [deal] with these problems,” Lu said. “We took training as a crisis counselor, and I feel students will be more willing to come to us. We experience what they’re going through, but also, we’re able to provide the help that they actually need. Since we’re getting trained for it, I feel like we’re a mixture of a counselor but also a person that understands what you’re going through.”

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