Students Give Mental Health Presentation To Staff

Autumn Treml and Lucy Duchac

On January 17th, 2022 students—with the help of Nick Pfliger, the South campus school psychologist, and the North campus school psychologist, Kevin Lewandowski—presented a mental health presentation for staff at Arrowhead. 


January 17th was a staff professional development day, in which students were not attending school. 


Pfliger says that “it was very important to provide the staff with information about some of the mental health struggles that we know students struggle with, data related to the percentages of students reporting those concerns at Arrowhead, and then strategies that staff can implement to better support students.” 


Pfliger felt that this would be most effective if presented by students who could share their stories. 


Some “courageous students” were asked by Pliger and Lewandowski to present on this topic. The students included Zara Agustin-Jardon (grade 11), Alex Stahl (grade 12), Jackie Peddie (grade 12), MJ Jensen (grade 12), and Sara Artiles (grade 12).


Agustin-Jardon explained the experience of giving the presentation saying, “All of us, including myself, felt as though it was empowering to present our experiences for the education of teachers and staff on how they can ensure the safety of one’s health.“


Pliger found that “the most important part of the presentation was the student voices. The students shared their experiences with mental health, the impacts it has had on their day-to-day life and school functioning, and things that staff has done in the past that have helped them feel better able to manage their mental health difficulties…Whenever students can share their own experiences, it helps staff better understand where the challenges are and what they can do to help.”


Teachers like Katie Herrmann, an AP Literature and Modern Literature teacher, reached out to the students in order to thank them for their presentations. 


Agustin-Jardon says, “After coming out about the problems we faced, we got a round of applause for a solid five minutes. Teachers poured out from the theater and thanked us all individually with hugs, thumbs up, and compliments. Tears fell down their faces, mirroring our own. I know teachers reached out to us, thanked us, through emails, postcards, quick chats, for having the strength to present ourselves in a vulnerable matter.”


Pfliger says, “We received a lot of feedback from all staff that the students’ stories really opened their eyes to the struggles that they didn’t fully understand.”


Along with sharing gratitude towards the students who presented, the staff responded with an initiative to make sure their classrooms provide a better environment for mental health. 


Pfliger notes this initiative by saying “many of the staff members shared that they will work harder on always approaching students with the understanding that perhaps they are going through struggles that they don’t know about.” 


Agustin-Jardon says, “The following weeks when second semester came in, they used our example of using surveys at the beginning of the semester to ask personal questions such as pronouns, preferred name and how they can help us feel our best.”