Mental Health Awareness Week 2018/19


South Pasadena Middle School PTA -MAY 6-10, 2019

The South Pasadena Middle School PTA organized a Mental Health Awareness Fair at the Middle School and was held on campus during lunch for 5 days.  It was a fun and informative event for the students, which was one of the main goals.  It took place during national Mental Health month – May.    The exposure to the students regarding the concept of “mental health” is to help de-stigmatize it and allow them to recognize issues when they surface within themselves as well as their peers.  Incorporating the concept of ‘Mental Health’ in a positive way within their regular conversations would help them to not worry about any stigma or worry about being judged. We believe this is the first step to helping prevent issues and allow for conversation.

    • We hired local certified mindfulness trainers to teach 5-minute sessions in the old gym and also had our counselor do a yoga class one day.:) 
    • This was an important activity for the final Raffle Prizes, and required at least 1 adult to oversee the sign-in, keep time, and prevent shenanigans from certain 8th graders who had an interest in disrupting. (who, by the way, to the surprise of many, participated in a meditation session later on.)
    • The trainers had alittle issue with the noise that came from outside but they felt it was important for them to learn to do this in noisy spaces, too.  One day they practiced ‘mindful- eating’ instead.
    • Especially on the first day, we had to promote this activity heavily to get them to go to this session.  One of the parents created a sign and walked around the quad with it.  This actually worked. 
  • Mental Health IQ Quiz
    • This was a quick 10-question quiz simply meant to get them to learn new terms and have a better understanding about this and develop new coping skills.  They would self-correct their own quizzes when finished. 
    • We had a couple of licensed therapists review the test first to make sure we used appropriate phrases.  For example, one question referred to eating disorders as a ‘mental illness’ (which it is), however, they recommended changing that phrase to ‘mental concern’ instead.  We also did not include the term ‘cutting’ and ‘suicide’ as we wanted to make sure these issues were discussed in a one-on-one situation with a qualified adult, rather than presented to the general student body indiscriminately.  (But, there were Teen Line brochures available if that was needed.)
    • We had a small calming room created upstairs in the back of the auditorium.  It included a small water fountain, a salt lamp, large ocean picture, chair, rug, plants, lavender, relaxing books, essential aromas.
    • This space is meant to provide students (and teachers) a space to separate from the hectic surrounding and when they’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, etc.
    • We needed various signs to promote this. 
    • We also had relaxing glitter bottles placed there, which were created ahead of time.
    • Ideally they were to be given a few minutes to experience it alone, and take turns.  But, eventually it just became a showroom for them and we were able to have a few people experience it together at a time.
    • We eventually had a line forming so while they were waiting they had an opportunity to play with the relaxing glitter bottles and/or when one of our meditation parents was stationed there, she was able to offer meditation exercises while they were waiting in line. 
  • Anxiety/Depression Booth
    • Poster displays were set up to define each topic in a user-friendly and fun format.
    • We found some quick self-surveys on anxiety and depression online. 
    • We found great bullet-point handouts about all the coping skills for these issues and made many copies to display with the posters. 
    • We made sure that the information involved learning how to detect these issues in someone else/their friends, and what they can do.
    • An adult was always present at this booth due to the topic.  There were a few students who needed to share on this topic which we followed up on. 
  • Anger/Sadness/Stress Booth
    • Poster displays were set up for each topic – again in a fun, user-friendly format.  (For example, we had a picture of Hulk practicing mindfulness, which they loved.)
    • We collected quotes from various teachers/counselors when asked, “What do you do when you are:  sad. Or angry?  The quotes were then displayed on a poster to get the students connected with some of the teachers/staff and also learn new coping skills.  There were different answers so it was good for them to see new ideas.
    • For the stress topic, we handed out a couple of the coping skills activities that are sometimes suggested for people before exams.  We gave away dark chocolate as it is known to be good for reducing stress hormones.  We had bubble wrap for people to pop and release some stress.  This booth was quite popular for obvious reasons, it attracted many new students to check out the displays and activities.
    • We had a shorter version of the Myers-Briggs test for teens.   This booth was quite popular for these middle-schoolers. 
    • This required someone to be there to answer questions on how to fill-out the questionnaire.
    • Having an understanding of their own personality types or tendencies helps them to understand their own behavior as well as the behavior of others.  It’s reassuring and they can build tolerance and understanding from this.  It also helps with career goal ideas.
  • POST-IT Board “I Feel Like….”
    • This activity definitely needed an adult to monitor.  Some of the notes posted up on the board were inappropriate, which is expected.
    • The different color post-its made it fun, and the students seem to enjoy reading all their colleagues comments.
    • This activity is also meant to help them practice focusing on their own inner thoughts/feelings and try to find what it is they’re experiencing. 
    • Hopefully, they can feel reassured when they see others having similar comments.
    • This display included about 40 different inspirational signs pulled from the internet (some specifically related to teen issues).  The notes were printed in each of their unique graphics and color.
    • They were asked to vote for their 3 favorite motivational signs that way they can read them and hopefully find one that provides some inspiration.  The winning signs would be announced on the last day.
    • This booth did not need to be manned, as it was self-explanatory.
    • This is where we displayed brochures from Teen Line and other help lines, as well as other information sheets. 
    • We had either a parent or ASB student stationed here to answer any questions about all the activities. 
    • We also had a ‘comment’ box where they can write anything (anonymously or not) – it could be questions, feedback, requests, etc.
    • We had color pencils and various sheets of drawings they could color.  The material used is actually used in regular art therapies. 
    • This table did not need to be manned, other than to keep area tidy.

Overall there were about 250 students who participated, based on all the sign-in sheets.  There were 10 raffle prizes handed out the following Monday to those who had the most activities.  The gift included the teen line brochure along with a letter congratulating them and showing the winning inspirational signs.

It was good to have this during testing season (CAASP).  The students seem to appreciate that.

We alerted the school counselor of a few student names who raised concern for us.  It was important to be able to capture these students from this event, and hopefully help them sooner than later.

There has been growing discussion about continuing the quiet room and set one up permanently somewhere. 


Shang Hur, VP Programs, SPMS PTA 2018-2020

Emily Cline, President, SPMS PTA 2018-2020