Homer Middle School counselor hosts parent discussion on teen mental health

Parents and school staff filled the seats at the Homer Middle School Library for a panel discussion about teen mental health on Feb. 27. Homer Middle School, Voznesenka School, Razdolna School and Kachemak-Selo School counselor Ally Legard organized the event and invited local youth education and community health professionals to answer questions around teen mental health.

Ingrid Harrald has worked with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District on numerous mental health programs. She says the discussion can be geared towards people of all ages, not just teens.

“It’s just hard to be a parent. It’s even harder to be a parent of somebody struggling with mental health issues,” she said, “so it’s nice to have conversations and hear how other people are using resources and how they’re helping, getting helped with those struggles.”

Parents mainly asked questions about mental health resources that are offered within the schools.

Something the panelists are working to share with the schools is a mental health first aid curriculum. This would teach tenth graders and above how to support a peer with mental health struggles and who to go to for help. Nearly one third of teens experienced some type of poor mental health in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the district’s school board is interested in the curriculum, things likely will not move forward with it until this summer.

South Peninsula Hospital Community Health and Wellness Educator Annie Garay is working with the panelists to bring this curriculum to schools. She wants to bring this education to the region.

“We’re at the end of the road here and having the tools as a young person to figure out how to navigate the world in Homer and beyond is so important,” she said.

Other panelists included REC Room peer educator coordinator Tyler Schlieman and Southern Kenai Peninsula Resilience Coalition Youth Education Manager Anna Meredith.

In addition to talking about the curriculum, they offered guidance on many parents’ concerns about the growing role of technology and social media in their childrens’ lives.

At the end of the night, parents left with printouts for ways to support specific mental health issues and where to find local resources.

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