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Mental wellness resources presented at Carroll County Public Schools’ 2nd mental health seminar

School staff, therapists and a national speaker told the Carroll County Public Schools community how to handle difficult situations while protecting their mental health.

The second Navigating Difficult Waters, an event to teach about mental health and wellness, was held virtually Wednesday night. It featured more than a dozen speakers, including students, a keynote address and breakout sessions to tackle the theme “mental wellness resources.”

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Viewers could pick which breakout session to be part of. One of the discussion for the first round of sessions was titled, “Let’s talk about mental health.” Leading the presentation was Rachel Greenberg, a therapist with the Youth Suicide Prevention Team of Carroll County Youth Service Bureau.

To explain mental health, she compared it with a broken leg. Having a broken leg is easy to notice and others would urge you to seek assistance. A panic attack, however, may not be easy to recognize. It may also be harder to find a provider to help.

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Greenberg also explained the difference between mental health and mental illness.

“Everybody has some level of mental health,” she said. But not everyone has a mental illness. There’s specific criteria and diagnoses for a mental illness, like an anxiety disorder. However, those who do not have an anxiety disorder are still capable of experiencing anxiety and can still seek help.

During the presentation a student shared two of the biggest stressors for teens right now is school workload and inconsistency in learning environments. Greenberg said if students notice they are feeling more anxious or overwhelmed, they should take a moment to acknowledge it and note why it’s happening.

“Zoom fatigue is a real thing,” she said, adding that virtual interactions activate a stress component in the brain as it tries to register if the person on the screen is a real.

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Greenberg said stressed students should also adopt real expectations. She said if someone could swim 400 meters in a pool in two minutes, they shouldn’t expect the same result in an ocean. Sand, wind and a different environment can affect it, she said. The same goes for grades earned before and after the pandemic.

Greenberg also explained the warning signs of suicide, which include talking about death, feeling trapped or hopeless, having big mood changes, giving away important items, skipping hobbies and saying goodbyes.

The risk factors that are often present when someone commits suicide include a diagnosis of a chronic condition, access to lethal means, past suicide attempts, a death in the family and a recent breakup. The more factors present, the more at risk the person is.

Protective factors, or factors that can prevent suicide, include getting rid of excess medications, locking up firearms and maintaining the connections with friends and family. Greenberg said the more protective factors present, the better.

A second breakout session included a presentation called “Breaking the stigma. Finding your Sources of Strength.”

Sources of Strength is a best practice youth suicide prevention project to change unhealthy norms and culture that could ultimately preventing suicide, bullying and substance abuse, according to its website. The practice has been implemented at Winters Mill, Manchester Valley and Francis Scott Key high schools for the past four years. This past summer, all middle schools received training on the practice. The individual sources of strength are mental health, family support, positive friends, mentors, generosity, spirituality and physical health.

The rest of the presentation featured students from Winters Mill explaining how using Sources of Strength has helped them.

The keynote speaker was Robert Hackenson Jr. who started Dynamic Influence, an organization that specializes in interactive and engaging speeches. His presentation Wednesday night was focused on how people react when things go wrong.

As he talked about what can lead to dwelling on negative situations, like stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and self-doubt, which were all written on cards, he did magic tricks that involved duct taping his eyes shut and blindly picking out a card with a positive phrase from the pile.

Hackenson said to the virtual audience that the biggest obstacle sometimes comes from one’s own mind. He showed the camera what seemed like an empty wallet then pulled out coins.

“Whenever you want something, you need to have perseverance and resilience,” he said.

He explained how to build resilience, how to deal with stress and told viewers to not be afraid to fail.

All of Wednesday’s sessions were recorded and will be available on the CCPS website by mid-April.

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