Fairfax Co. schools hold conference to address mental health, suicide

FAIRFAX, Va. — Inside the cafeteria at Fairfax High School, students gathered to share ideas and learn how to identify and address concerns around mental health during the Our Minds Matter Teen Summit for Fairfax County Public Schools Saturday.

The summit is a part of this year’s Mental Health and Wellness Conference.

Lauren Anderson works with Our Minds Matter throughout the county, and said the conference and seminars are all about addressing a nationwide concern.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents,” she said.

The goal is to reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage students to get involved with the Our Minds Matter movement at their schools. Anderson said the club’s focus is to increase help-seeking behavior, promote connection, and increase healthy habits and coping skills.

Students worked in groups to learn more about their own thinking processes and how those preferences show through. It’s a method to help them learn how to work together and communicate productively.

Abby Gill is a student at W.T. Woodson High School. She said the skills she’s gained have been invaluable.

“At Woodson, we’ve had like six suicides in the past few years, so I use them on a day-to-day basis,” Gill said. “There is a stigma around mental health and we do need to fix it.”

Jennifer Spears, a mental health and wellness specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools, said the conference was created five years ago after students expressed a need to learn how to cope with mental health.

This year, the conference is focused on stress. It offered seminars for parents, and resources for community members and students.

“They want education strategies and resources about mental health,” Spears said. “The earlier we start that, the better off they will be.”

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