On Wednesday April 19, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) partnered with St John Baptist Church (SJBC) to host a community event focusing on mental health concerns, particularly in regards to students in the public school school system, but also addressing the greater community.
James LeMon, Executive Director of Community, Parent and School Outreach at HCPSS graciously welcomed attendees to the event, thanking SJBC for hosting the event in their building and introducing speakers.
Reverend Dr. Robert Turner, Senior Pastor of SJBC, opened the program outlining how involvement in a church can provide resources, community, and support to aid in healing during mental health challenges. He acknowledged that life is a journey and spiritual organizations are there to support the community.
The keynote speaker was HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano, who shared a heartfelt message about mental health and mental illness, acknowledging that the first step toward helping each other is accepting that we have a problem. Dr. Martirano outlined some bleak statistics about mental health issues and suicide attempts within the student body of the HCPSS, particularly among marginalized groups. However, he was quick to state that the situation is not hopeless. Dr. Martirano said that he is dedicated to creating a safe space for the youth of Howard County to share their feelings and reach out for help, but he also warned that we have to do more than hope that students will take advantage of the resources available to them. Dr. Martirano remains hopeful that by having open, honest, vulnerable conversations, we can rebuild connection and community not only within the youth population but throughout Howard County. He challenged us to be open and receptive to early intervention, because both youth and adult populations in Howard County and suffering in silence and we must find a way to support them.
Lastly, Stephanie Reed a Clinical Social Worker from the Howard County Health Department outlined the resources available to Howard County residents, as well as the practical signs of how to identify a mental health issue.
HC DrugFree was honored to be among those present at the event representing organizations who provide mental health resources to the community.