National Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed in May since 1949, is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health challenges and to help reduce the stigma about mental illness.
Talking about mental health is especially important in 2021 as people continue to manage through isolation, with many people practicing social distancing, wearing masks, learning virtually and working at home for extended periods of time.
“COVID-19 has had profound effects on mental health and has been especially hard for those who already suffer from anxiety and depression,” said Michelle Ferris, Executive Director of Student Support Services. “Here in our school district, we are committed to helping to provide the support and resources our students and families need in this difficult time.”
For the past four years, the Minnetonka School Board has made student well-being a top priority, maintaining it as the District’s Goal #1.
“In pursuit of child-centered excellence, the well-being of students is a continuing priority for families and the District. In 2020-2021, the District will continue the development and implementation of a plan that supports families’ desires to have their students be socially and emotionally strong and provides the necessary level of support to students for their academic, social, and emotional well-being. The District will continue to foster and promote positive student well-being efforts and identify leading causes of issues that have a detrimental effect on student well-being.”
“Even before the added challenges of COVID-19, Minnetonka Schools has been working hard to support students’ well-being and mental health needs. We are cognizant of the concerning local and national statistics of young people’s mental health challenges,” said Chris Vitale, Minnetonka School Board Chair. “By providing the resources our students need to develop a positive sense of well-being, the District is helping students to build strong relationships and support systems, which in turn allows them to thrive socially and academically.”
District leaders believe it is imperative for the District to continue efforts to provide awareness and support for mental health.
“Our goal is to reduce the stigma of mental illness by continuing our education and outreach across the district and in our school community,” said Dr. Dennis Peterson, Superintendent of Minnetonka Public Schools. “Our building leaders, teachers and support staff have embraced School Board Goal #1, Student Well-Being, and continually put the well-being of students at the forefront of their work.”
Families seeking support should check in with their school’s counseling staff or school social worker. These staff members will work with parents and students to find the right support, whether it is a school staff person or a connection to the many wonderful community mental health agencies that support Minnetonka students and families.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides resources for Mental Health Awareness month. This year’s theme is You are Not Alone. The theme is meant to inspire people to talk about mental health and mental illness. This resource provides many tools and encourages awareness and conversations on mental health: https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month
For more mental health resources, visit the District's Well-Being website: https://www.minnetonkaschools.org/district/departments/student-support/resources/well-being-guide