Mental Health Advisory Board created


During a weekly Mental Health Advisory Board virtual meeting, junior Rachel Harris participates in a discussion about the board’s scheduled prevention week. The student-driven board was created to eliminate stigma around mental health. Photo by Audrey Gottschild

With the workload of her honors classes, junior Karis Gillen struggled to balance academics with a healthy social life during her freshman year. Because of increased stress from her studies, Gillen suffered from panic attacks along with other negative impacts on her mental health. During her junior year, she and her close friend advocated for and became part of the Mental Health Advisory Board, which focuses on supporting mental health by creating a safe environment.

“There’s so much stigma that surrounds mental health within the student community,” said Gillen in a video conference. “It’s just been really hard to, one, tell the school we’ve been struggling, and two, be able to share [those struggles] with friends. 

“That’s where this idea sparked,” Gillen said.

In November 2020, the two presented the idea of a student-driven mental health committee to Glenbrook North’s Student Assistance Program, also known as SAP, a resource consisting of school counselors and other faculty members to promote student wellness. This resulted in SAP creating the Mental Health Advisory Board. Because of the pandemic, the board’s formation was delayed until March 2021. 

According to social worker Christina Seaborg, who is one of three board advisors, the primary goal of the board is to create a community where students can support their peers. 

“We want to create some space where kids have a voice … and push the [mental health] conversation,” Seaborg said.

The board consists of faculty members and students. Members of a substance abuse prevention community organization have attended some of the board’s weekly meetings to help the board organize a prevention week.

According to Gillen, the board plans to raise mental health awareness through events within the district. 

The board is working with Glenbrook South’s Mental Health Club to organize a prevention week, which is scheduled for the first week of May. Each day has an activity, such as board members sharing stories about their mental health journeys, student-led workshops, a mindfulness day and open discussions with teachers about mental health struggles. 

According to Seaborg, teachers and counselors identified which students should join the board. Members plan on keeping the board’s current student size, and they also plan on getting students involved in activities during the prevention week.

Junior Rachel Harris said in a video conference that she was invited by Seaborg to join the board after she produced a video about mental health for the 2021 Variety Show. Harris joined to help change the way GBN students feel about mental health and the way it is talked about in school.

“I think the school plays a role in making sure that there are resources for kids to have,” said Harris.“But, then it’s also the responsibility of that kid to go and take advantage of those resources.”

According to Gillen, the board was formed so students could give input in mental health discussions at school.

“Students need to show their faces and need to be seen, and their stories need to be heard in order for other students to feel like they’re not alone in what they’re going through,” Gillen said.