HDRF Brings Mental Health Awareness to Schools,
February 14, 2019

Seated Left to Right: Jeff Lima, Kelly Lennon-Martucci, Louisa Benton, and Hope Kronman
Standing: Daniel Lampert and Aidan Golub, Student Organizers

Hope for Depression Research Foundation was proud to conduct an expert panel on “Bullying and Mental Health” at the Open Minds summit held January 10 at the Solomon Schechter High School in Westchester, NY.

Our panel consisted of mental health activists and scientists who spoke to an auditorium of 100 students and their teachers about how bullying can get under our skin to create mental and physical health problems later in life.

  • Anti-bullying advocate and actor Jeff Lima (Chicago Fire) led the way, sharing his personal story of being severely bullied as a child growing up in Spanish Harlem in NYC.
  • Neuroscientist Hope Kronman of Mount Sinai then explained how bullying can lead to life-long changes in mood centers in the brain.
  • Social worker Kelly Lennon-Martucci, head of school mental health programs at Henry Street Settlement, spoke about ways to intervene  when bullying occurs.
  • HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton moderated the panel which was followed by a lively Q and A session with the students.

Here are key takeaways from the panel:

  • Bullying can cause physical changes in the brain, for both the bully and the oppressed.
  • These changes can lead to depression and have other negative effects on the body’s immune system later on in life.
  • Children who have had been bullied are six times more likely to develop depression, and two times more likely to develop an anxiety.
  • If the bullying can be stopped, by working with the school or with the child to handle the situation, then in most cases early signs of depression will go away on their own. They will resolve naturally.

What to do as a parent:

  • Be open with your child, ask if they want to talk about anything. Check in.
  • Establish a support system. Make sure the child knows who they can turn to if they need help.

Advice for kids:

  • It is all right to be vulnerable to an adult. It is important to report the bullying to a trusted adult.
  • You are your biggest advocate. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself when you can.

Everybody should know the warning signs of depression in kids.  They include: 

  • Sudden loss of interest in activities
  • Missing school frequently
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Changes in sleep patterns – sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in eating habits – eating too much or too little
  • Always feeling tired or slow
  • Expressions of low self esteem
  • Anxiety

Turn-out for the hour-long panel was robust, given that a number of other breakout sessions were also happening that morning as part of the Open Minds summit.  The entire day was organized by Schechter student activists to raise mental health awareness in their community.  Overall, they welcomed 600 guests including students from other schools, parents and teachers.

HDRF applauds the Solomon Schechter students for a highly successful event.  We were honored to participate with the panel on Bullying and Mental Health, and we will bring the panel to other schools in the tri-state area throughout the spring.

Stay tuned for more news as we expand our school outreach in 2019!

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