by Anne Lodge
Earlier this spring, Russ Becker and I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Teen Mental Health Depression & Suicide Conference with four MHS student representatives. Sponsored by the MIAA and the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association (MSSAA), the conference aimed to increase awareness and recognition of the importance of supporting our students and staff in the area of social-emotional wellness and learning. The conference’s keynote speaker, Jeffrey Benson, focuses his work on assisting administrators and teachers in developing school culture, structure, curriculum, and instruction that supports all learners. He addressed many of his remarks directly to the student representatives at the conference, urging them to make change in their school communities by asking questions, having conversations with teachers or administrators, and speaking up for themselves and their needs.
Following the keynote address mini workshops were held focused on model programs and curriculums, resources for schools, and informational sessions on mental health topics. We each took the opportunity to attend different sessions so that we could get the most out of the conference. Workshops included information on successful school transition programs, empowering and leading student leaders in promoting wellness, strategies for relieving stress, recognizing and intervening in youth depression, fostering resilience through everyday classroom practices, and initiating difficult conversations, among others. They offered up good suggestions and practices, but most importantly, the conference highlighted the critical role social-emotional wellness plays in schools and communities and how essential it is for all educators to focus on building supportive environments. The quotation on our program agenda by Leo Buscaglia, an American author and motivational speaker, sums it up well:
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”