The Western Hemisphere

Student Initiative 

Talley Johnston, Editor in Chief

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Students of Albemarle County and specifically Western Albemarle High School have noticed that mental health is a growing issue and have taken the initiative to help find a solution.  They want to increase the awareness in the schools and the resources for mental health.  Students have been reaching out to the Health Advisory Board, the Albemarle Senator Creigh Deeds.  

Senior Alex Moreno says, “[We are] working on ways and putting in policies so we can try to leave a better mental health environment for the students that come.”

Mental health is generalized as negative and something that should be covered up, and this is what is trying to be changed. Making sure that students are not hiding it and that they have a positive attitude that it can and will be okay.

The goals are to make Western a place where students who are dealing with mental health feel comfortable and not alone.  “It’s a personal issue and you shouldn’t have to talk about it but there should be an environment where you feel comfortable about it,” Moreno said.  Students should have someone they can go to, whether is it a teacher they are close with or a counselor provided by the county who is specifically placed for mental health.  

Due to budget cuts in the county, Western has a part time Student Assistance Program Counselor (SAP), Ms. Modica, she spends half of her time here and the other half at Monticello High School.  The goal is to hire a full time SAP that could spend his or her time meeting with Western Students. Besides hiring a specific counselor for mental health, teachers will have a training course so that they are prepared if a student comes to them about their mental health.      

Another goal of this student initiative is to get the whole student body on the same page about what mental health is.  This may mean including mental health curriculum into the freshman and sophomore health classes in the future. Currently, mental health is only mentioned in health classes when a teacher has the time or when they are ahead in the curriculum, these students want it to be its own pillar of education in health classes.

“It would be a really good basis point for students to start getting unbiased information about what mental health is and that what they are feeling is something everyone feels and they are not alone,” said Moreno. 

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