Mental health conference inspires unique club at Duval County public school

Students hope to inspire others to start similar clubs focused on mental health

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Students inspired by last year's Duval County Public Schools mental health conference created a first-of-its-kind club at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

Mary Hayes, Evette Davis and Keila Smith returned to this year's conference with advice for other students on how they can jump-start mental health clubs at their own schools.

“A lot of people don’t have real connections with each other at school, so we’re just actively going out reaching out to people, bringing them together,” said Hayes, a junior at DA.

The students in the DA for Change Club meet every week and stay active with community projects. The club addresses emotional, mental and physical safety on campus.

“Currently, we have a proposal that just was confirmed to paint some of the more destroyed school bathrooms and have the students help do that because I know a lot of students go there to calm down and to breathe,” said Davis, who is also a junior.

Hundreds of students representing every Duval County public high school heard ideas for strengthening mental health during this week's conference at the Schultz Center. The event is a collaboration between DCPS and the Mayor's Young Leaders Academy.

Only 10 to 15 students from each school were in attendance Wednesday, but each school will be provided with thumb drives of the presentations, providing all students with a mental health tool kit.

Smith, a sophomore at DA, said one of the ways they spread the word about their club was to wear green ribbons during a “hello week” so that other students could know the club members were people they could talk to.

The goal of the conference was to help students spread positivity and improve mental health throughout their high school campuses.

The school district has always had mental health initiatives in place, but those have significantly increased because of local and state funding following the tragedy in Parkland. 

For more on mental health services that your child’s school might offer, go to dcps.duvalschools.org.

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