Middle School Students Study Mental Health

By Jordan Burnham

In December of 2018, Minding Your Mind’s young adult speaker and director of student engagement, Jordan Burnham, was interviewed by a small group of students from Radnor Middle School (PA) who were doing research for a report on mental health. The students, Olivia Brubaker, Pablo Strid, Lyla Wallis, and Mathew Wolfington, are enrolled in Soundings, an integrated learning program that challenges eighth graders to explore student-selected themes that merge their adolescent concerns with global issues.  Olivia, Pablo, Lyla, and Mathew chose mental health in order to discover why there is still stigma surrounding it today.

With the goal of gaining insight from someone who speaks on his story and works in mental health advocacy as well, the students were prepared with over 30 questions covering a variety of topics. Jordan said it was one of the most professional and organized interviews he’s had the opportunity to participate in.

As the interview started, Mathew Wolfington laid down a voice recorder, while each student had a pencil, notepad, and took turns asking questions. When the students asked if he had ever had a group bring him in and conduct a full interview, Jordan said, “no, this is definitely my first being interviewed like this, and it’s awesome.” The students looked up from their notes, smiled at each other, and nodded their approval

On January 8, 2019, the unit group presented to thirty of their classmates, and both teachers. The project covered how society’s view of mental illness has changed from the early 1700s to the present, from the way mental health disorders were diagnosed, how cruel the treatment was for people with mental health disorders, and how the misconceptions of those disorders led to the stigma that’s often still associated with mental illness today.

Their classmates sat with notebooks and pencils, taking pages of notes, as they watched the unit group present a two-hour PowerPoint with the definitions of different mental health issues, while also using YouTube videos to add context by using real-life stories.

Halfway through the PowerPoint, the classmates were organized into small groups and placed at eight different activity stations. Each station focused on different mental health topics, including: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, history of mental asylums, bipolar disorder, coping skills and treatment, Jordan Burnham’s story, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

The overall goal of the presentation was to educate their classmates on mental illness and discuss how society can help break the stigma that remains today. As Jordan sat in attendance for the unit group’s presentation, Mathew Wolfington paused during one of the slides and asked Jordan if he felt that the future of mental health awareness is going in a positive direction. Jordan responded by saying that he’s seen great improvement since the time he started presenting for Minding Your Mind in 2008, and it’s clear that seeing students choose to talk about mental health brings a lot of optimism about normalizing the conversation of mental health through education and stories.

Do you have students who are interested in researching a project on mental health? Contact Jordan at jordan@mindingyourmind.org to discuss how Minding Your Mind can assist in their work.

Minding Your Mind Celebrates 11th Anniversary at 2018 Blue Gene Gala

On Sunday, October 28, 2018, Minding Your Mind celebrated with friends, family, and supporters at our 11th Anniversary Blue Gene Gala. It was a wonderful evening, full of reunions, new connections, and inspiring presentations from our award winners and Minding Your Mind Young Adult Speakers.

Gerry Cuddy, president and CEO of Beneficial Bank, generously served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. Minding Your Mind honored honor members of our community and recognize the contributions they have made to advancing awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention.

Caroline O’Halloran, founding editor and publisher of SAVVY Main Line, received the 2018 Media Advocate Award. Her thoughtful and honest coverage of mental health issues and the opioid crisis along the Main Line has raised awareness and given hope to families who previously felt as if they were alone in their experiences. Trish Larsen, executive director of Minding Your Mind, said, “Through her honest, forthright, personal, and compelling reporting, she has positioned SAVVY Main Line as a leading voice in raising awareness of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the region, as well as promoting frank conversations about mental health. She has educating our community about bullying, gender identity, and suicide by giving our neighbors a voice and an audience, and we are incredibly grateful to have her as an ally and an advocate.”

The Sefcik Family received the 2018 Changing Minds Award for their tireless efforts to support families who have someone living with depression and raising awareness about suicide. When presenting their award, Larsen shared, “After losing [their son] T.J. to suicide…they became open in talking about what they experienced with T.J in the hopes of helping other families. Wendy and Steve along with their son Matt, created Remembering T.J.—A Story of Teen Depression, Lessons and Hope along with the rememberingtj.org website and blog. The Sefciks have presented to over 25,000 students, parents, educators and mental health professionals…Wendy has been a great friend to Minding Your Mind by giving of her time and talent, and endless connections in New Jersey. Our growth and expansion in New Jersey can be directly attributed to Wendy, who has been instrumental in introducing Minding Your Mind to schools and community organizations all over the state.”

Kim Porter, executive director of Be a Part of the Conversation, spoke about the impact of living through a child battling substance use disorder. Minding Your Mind young adult speakers shared testimonials from students, parents, mental health professionals, and educators who have experiences a Minding Your Mind presentation. The evening’s program was closed by Minding Your Mind’s Kristen Harootunian and her inspiring, personal story that she presents to students and adults as a young adult speaker.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who joined us and support our efforts every day. Please enjoy the photos from the event; click on a thumbnail to enlarge and scroll through the slide show.

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By Jenna DiLossi, Psy.D., NCC, LPC 

Center for Hope and Health
Ardmore, PA

Have you ever experienced thoughts that seem very strange or out of the ordinary? What about thoughts that you know are illogical yet still produce distress when they pop in your mind? Aside from being strange, do these thoughts ever scare you? Do they ever make you wonder if you are a horrible, dangerous person? Do you have certain behaviors or mental acts that you have to do, NO MATTER WHAT….even if they are inconvenient, take up a lot of time, and cause conflicts with your loved ones? Well, answering “yes” to some/all of the above-mentioned questions might indicate the presence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (otherwise known as OCD). OCD is often portrayed in media as a quirky character (e.g., Monica Gellar, Monk, etc.), the punchline of a joke, or as an adjective used to describe someone who is anal retentive. Despite this portrayal, specialists understand that OCD is certainly not a joke, the sufferer is not simply quirky, and it is not synonymous with anal retentiveness. The reality of this psychiatric illness is that it can be debilitating and often causes impairment in many domains of a person’s life. The general public typically understands OCD in terms of contamination fears, excessive cleanliness or orderliness, counting, and superstitious beliefs. And while all of those aspects can be true for OCD sufferers, there are other domains within OCD that are less understood and kept quiet due to sufferers’ shame, embarrassment, and fear of being judged by others. Below are the top 5 aspects of OCD that are misunderstood and/or not discussed in the public:

1) The difference between obsessions and compulsions.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is comprised of a cycle of obsessions and compulsions (also referred to as rituals). Obsessions are recurring thoughts, images, ideas, or impulses that are unwanted and intrusive. All of us have strange thoughts that pop into our mind, and these thoughts might be dark or make us think, “Wow, where did that thought come from? That was random and weird…moving on.” For OCD sufferers, however, there is no moving on and they do not chalk it up to randomness. They perseverate over the thought and become extremely distressed by it, regardless of their age, intelligence level, or ability to “know it sounds ridiculous.” The content that pops into the minds of OCD sufferers just feels real and is impervious is logic. Compulsions or rituals are strategies that sufferers use to make themselves feel better– to lower their distress and anxiety. Strategies could include overt behavior such as repetitive checking or washing, covert behaviors such as seeking reassurance or re-reading content, or mental acts such as repeatedly replaying the events of an evening or repeating special words to themselves. While it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between these two components of OCD, doing so is very important in the treatment process.

2) Harm obsessions.

Harm obsessions are characterized by thoughts, images, ideas, or impulses of hurting oneself or another person. Examples of this type of obsession could include thoughts such as “What if I pick up that knife and stab my mother” or “What if I yell out a racist slur on the subway.” One of the biggest misunderstandings of this obsessional domain is that sufferers are not actually suicidal, homicidal, or aggressive at all. In fact, these obsessions terrify OCD sufferers. And while they begin to fear their thoughts and believe that they are a danger to themselves or others, they are typically the least dangerous people we know. Furthermore, sufferers might begin to avoid objects that could produce harm (e.g., knives) or interacting with other people altogether, as OCD convinces them that avoidance is the only way to ensure safety. Not surprisingly so, this obsessional domain is correlated with a lot of social isolation and depressive symptoms.

3) Sexual obsessions.

Perhaps the best-kept secret amongst OCD sufferers are obsessions that are comprised of sexual content. Despite being so under-discussed, this obsessional domain is extremely common in OCD. Sufferers might experience thoughts related to their sexual orientation, sexual aggression (e.g., rape), or pedophilia—all of which are NOT congruent with what they actually find sexually arousing or pleasurable. These obsessions typically produce an excessive amount of anxiety, shame, and embarrassment. Examples of sexual obsessions are as follows: “What if I am gay and I don’t know it yet;” “What if I just molested my niece when I changed her diaper;” “What if I raped someone last night when I went out and I don’t remember it.” Common compulsions for these obsessions could include repeatedly mentally reviewing the sequence of events, seeking reassurance from a loved one, or strict adherence to safety behaviors (e.g., only nodding hello as a greeting instead of hugging a loved on). Avoidance is also quite common here– again, to ensure others’ safety. Many OCD sufferers who experience these obsessions judge themselves harshly and believe that they are a terrible monster of a person (particularly in the case of pedophilic obsessions.) One of the first steps in sufferers’ recovery process is to learn that although these obsessions might produce a lot of shame and questioning of one’s character, they are merely a symptom of the illness and have no implications on their character.

4) Just right.

One of the most overlooked domains of OCD is the rigidity and incessantness of needing things to be “just right.” The reason this often goes unnoticed is because perfectionism runs rampant in Westernized culture. Many of us strive for perfection or like to do things in our special way that feels “just right.” In the case of OCD, however, this degree of perfectionism, orderliness, or rigidity become maladaptive and impairing. It can result in excessive tardiness, missed deadlines, or complete avoidance of tasks altogether. The OCD sufferer might spend countless hours re-reading or re-writing a term paper or even an email to a colleague to ensure that it is free from error or that they articulated their points in the most effective and efficient way possible. One might also spend hours cleaning and re-organizing the whole house before being able to sit down and begin math homework or keep putting off a decision about which paint color to choose because they might not have found the best one yet. This obsessional domain often feeds on an inherent feature of human life, uncertainty. OCD wants people to live in the world of absolutes and complete certainty, which is most often impossible. Many individuals with OCD experience reluctance to give up this part of the illness because they attribute their successes to this “thoroughness” and fear that they might become a “slacker” in the absence of these rituals. The irony, however, is that it often results in their biggest fears: a series of recurrent failures and incomplete tasks. Breaking this crippling cycle of perfectionism begins with learning how to tolerate uncertainty, mistakes, and “good enough.”

5) Religious scrupulosity.

Many people believe in a higher power, engage in religious rituals and traditions, and aim to behave according to their morals. Furthermore, it is true that plenty of these people find great fulfillment from their faith. Unfortunately, OCD can turn religion and morality from fulfilling to fretful. Scrupulosity is a domain of OCD that is characterized by a pathological level of guilt related to moral or religious issues—this can manifest in believers and non-believers alike. These individuals may find themselves preoccupied with fears about heaven and hell, spending the majority of their waking hours praying or reading religious script, or being terrified to act in an immoral way (e.g., ignoring a person in need or drinking alcohol). OCD often “attacks” what people care about most, so it is not uncommon for OCD to manifest in scrupulosity for those who care deeply about their faith or morals. While sufferers may still genuinely care about their faith at their core, religious rituals, prayer, and desires to follow the word of their faith become associated with a great deal of guilt and fear rather than joy and inner peace. Conquering scrupulosity does not mean that religion and morality are erased from one’s life, but rather that they can exist in a person’s life in a way that is rooted in peace and fulfillment rather than fear and guilt. This process may involve consultation from a clergy member.

Many people with OCD believe that they need their OCD to succeed or that their compulsions and avoidances are needed for survival and safety. It must be stated that OCD can be quite convincing to both sufferers and their loved ones, so it might often feel easier to just give into the cycle rather than challenge it. Challenging it will result in a lot of temporary discomfort, distress, and anxiety. And it will not feel pleasant to challenge it, but this is the way to recovery. Help is out there! OCD specialists exist and are trained in a specific form of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (commonly referred to as EXRP or ERP) to help sufferers overcome this encumbering illness. This treatment successfully treats OCD symptoms by activating what makes it tick the most. Specialists will help sufferers break free from the chains of OCD by systematically exposing them to their biggest fears in the absence of compulsions. Although this treatment can feel difficult and frustrating at times, the gains can be life changing and incredibly empowering.


Jenna DiLossi is a facilitator for Minding Your Mind and co-founder of the Center for Hope and Health in Ardmore, PA. Dr. DiLossi specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She co-founded the Center for Hope & Health, LLC. (CHH), which is a treatment center that offers specialized evidence-based treatments for eating disorders and anxiety disorders. She formerly worked the Renfrew Center for five years, received specialized training on the most cutting-edge treatment, completed her doctoral dissertation on body image and perfectionism, and has been featured on Fox 29 to provide her expertise on the topic. She is currently practicing as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania, but is separately completing post-doctoral training through the University of Pennsylvania at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) with the intent to obtain licensure as a clinical psychologist. She completed two Master of Science degrees and a Doctor of Psychology degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Throughout her doctoral training, Dr. DiLossi has gained experience with a variety of diagnoses and clinical issues from clinical placements at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy and Drexel University’s Division of Neuropsychology. In addition to her work at CHH and CTSA, Dr. DiLossi is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Saint Joseph’s University.

What’s it Like Going to College with an Eating Disorder? by Jenna DiLossi, Psy.D., NCC, LPC

Living with an eating disorder and learning to manage it is challenging during any time of the school year. For a student who is leaving for college, whether it be for the first time or returning, this takes on a new level of challenge, and sometimes an entirely new strategy.

In this video, Minding Your Mind’s Jenna DiLossi, Psy.D., NCC, LPC, provides thoughtful advice and considerations for these students and the adults in their lives to help navigate this time in a healthy and productive way.

The Center for Hope and Health provides treatment for eating disorders and anxiety disorders including PTSD, OCD, and panic disorder. Utilizing evidence-based treatments, CHH provides therapy that is shown in the research to work while also offering the most time-efficient outpatient strategies to achieve a strong recovery. Contact them toll free: 866-739-3083 or local: 610-645-5311.


Behind the Smile, by Michael Garuiccio

Let me preface this by saying, I am not writing this for any reason other than wanting to tell part of my story. I am not looking for pity, or social media responses. Simply, I want people to know that the truth can be misleading. That the people who look the most put together, can be the most broken. Mostly, I want to say what I have been feeling needs to be said aloud. Maybe it will resonate with someone else. Maybe it will not.

For those who know me well, mental health is an important topic for me. On the surface it would make sense, being that my roommate and good friend has survived multiple suicide attempts and has taken on advocacy as a vocation and profession. One of my close friends from high school died by suicide suddenly during our freshman year of college. So naturally, this issue has been close to my heart. However, unbeknownst to most I have struggled on and off with depression for more than a decade. So literally, this has always hit home for me.

In 2015, my roommate Drew attended a gala in New York raising money for his job, a non-­‐profit that does mental health education programs for young people across the country. When he returned from New York, Drew was blown away by what he had seen. The event, A Celebration of Life, was started by a group of fraternity brothers at Vanderbilt University who lost one of their brothers to suicide. To try and raise awareness, they threw a concert to raise money for mental health advocacy. Years later, as these men had grown into their careers and moved across the country, they had decided to turn it into a gala. The event had 300 young professionals come together in New York City and raised $125,000.

Drew had told me this, and said to me: “This is an amazing event, we can do this.” For me, it was a no brainer. I would do whatever I could to help Drew along the way. A Celebration of Life: Philadelphia was born. The months went by, and we began to see it come together. Sponsors, donations, ticket sales; the vision was becoming reality. We were incredibly excited for this amazing night that would not only raise money for our cause, but also would bring so many incredible people together to celebrate life (and party all night).

The night before the gala, I was out with some friends in the city. I had gotten to a bad place mentally, via alcohol. This had become a pattern for me at that time. Drinking and going out would be a vessel of hope for me. The possibility of making new friends, and meeting someone, was always exciting and made me hopeful of change regardless of my mental state.

Unfortunately, drinking began to open mental barriers I have developed over time to hold my anxieties and depression at bay. I would begin to fall into deep depressive states late at night after drinking, and over time it would grow into suicide ideation.

That night, I began to think about and dwell on the loneliness I had felt for much of my life. I sat on a street corner by myself in the night crying, feeling hopeless and not able to see change. I walked to a parking garage in the city, and climbed the stairs to the top. The same parking garage Madison Holleran jumped off of two years earlier. For whatever reason, I had always felt a connection to Madison. She and I had never met, but she died the same week my friend had. We were struggling at the same time, in the same city, for many of the same reasons. I was always walking in the city, out and about. I would wonder why we never crossed paths. Maybe we could have connected; maybe we would have become friends, maybe.

I stood at the ledge, looking to the street. Thinking on my life. Thinking of my struggles. Wanting to simply not be sad anymore. As I stood there, I began to think more of the change I was desperate for. For whatever reason, I made a phone call. I called a friend, who honestly today I cannot tell you who it was. They did not answer. I called another friend, no answer. I called one last person, at 4:00am. My friend Patty, at 4 o’clock in the morning, answered the call. Patty talked to me for what seemed like hours, though it was probably closer to 20 minutes. She got in her car and drove to pick me up. She took me to her office where in the early hours of the morning, she talked me through and developed a new plan to get my mental health on track.

I was worried now that I would not be able to attend our event, which was so important to Drew and me. After some sleep, I had come back to a manageable place. We had our event, and it was a great party that lasted deep into the night. We are now going into our third Celebration of Life:Philadelphia now having raised over $150,000 combined over the first two years.

I tell this story, simply because in a time in my life where I am struggling for much different reasons, I wanted to tell some truth about my past. That you never really know someone simply by surface. That pictures rarely tell the truth. That someone who looks so happy could have almost attempted suicide just 24 hours before.

Mike Garuccio blog

I hope that if you are struggling, you have the courage to reach out. I know I would not be here today, if many times over I had not reached out for help. I still struggle every day, but I have the tools to beat mental illness. I will always try to help and support those who need it, to the best of my ability. Whether it is through our advocacy work with A Celebration of Life, or simply a hug or phone call. Please know, there will always be someone who cares.


Therapist seeks to work with KCSD on school safety initiatives

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer
Originally appeared 03/20/2018 01:22PM in Chester County Press, www.chestercounty.com

On February 14, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that resulted in the deaths of 17 people and the wounding of 17 others.

It became one of the world’s deadliest school massacres on record, and just the latest in a continuum of school tragedies that have burned names like Sandy Hook and Columbine into the consciousness of America.

As she watched the events unfold on television and social media over the next few days, Winden Rowe, M.S., a Kennett Square resident, therapist and the mother of two teenage sons who are students in the Kennett Consolidated School District, feared that the Florida shooting, on the heels of countless other tragedies just like it, had become just the latest stopping off point for a once seething rage against violence that was tapering off on its way to full acceptance.

She wrote a letter to KCSD Superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti that detailed her rage against complacency, both in the community and what she perceived was also true in the school district itself.

In short, Rowe wanted to work with the school district on finding ways to address the causes of school shootings, not just reactive protocols. “Silence in anything is cosignatory, and irresponsible in this matter,” she wrote.

The letter, which was later published in the Chester County Press, invited Tomasetti and district officials to explore the possibility of opening up a dialogue in an effort to “break the silence and demonstrate to our children that we are not willing to go on another day acting as if this is not a national crisis,” she wrote. “Please come to the table. Please offer more than a ‘We understand your concern.’”

She received it.

On Feb. 27, accompanied by her friend Colleen Kauffman, a mother of five who currently has four children in the school district, Rowe met with Tomasetti and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber to further a dialogue that in many ways, the school district has already begun to have with the population it serves.

During the meeting, Rowe and Kauffman asked the Kennett school district to create district-wide efforts that recognize potential warning signs in students whose actions may be triggered by stress and trauma, which could subsequently lead to negative health outcomes, mental health concerns and violence. Rowe encouraged the Kennett school district to adopt the Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE) questionnaire, a 10-item self-report to identify childhood experiences of abuse and neglect. The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proposes that childhood trauma and stress early in life, apart from potentially impairing social, emotional and cognitive development, indicates a higher risk of developing health and behavioral issues later in life.

Among the ten questions on the questionnaire are:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you, or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1  __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1  __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way or attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

“One of the things that came up in dialogue was that there are two branches of discussion regarding school violence – regulations related to security and safety, and approaches to mental health,” Rowe said. “The overarching one for me, given my training, is wellness, and wellness gets overlooked but is the primary and most important aspect of prevention and building resilience in communities, so that we don’t see these incidents happen again.”

In the case of Nikolas Jacob Cruz, the 19-year-old convicted of the Florida shooting spree, “he faced a lot of adversity in his home environment that wasn’t being addressed,” Rowe said to a group of residents she met with on March 14 at Anchor Fitness in Kennett Square. “What we know about him is that he faced a lot of adversity in his childhood development. What we know about children with higher ACE scores are that they are far more likely to have poorer health outcomes caused by stress, and a higher likelihood of being incarcerated and involvement with the law.

“This is not a report card that means that something is wrong. It means that things have happened, and if you’re addressing the outcomes, this is where you go in order to treat the root causes. This is where the plumbing issue exists, but rather, we go clean up the spill.”

Since it was first introduced in the 1990s, the ACE questionnaire has helped lay the foundation for growing recognition of the prevalence and impact of childhood adversity, stress and trauma on children and youth. Rowe said that the ACE questionnaire is being incorporated into cities and towns, who in turn infuse it within schools and law enforcement systems.

‘Executive function’

Rowe said that living in a stress-filled environment contributes to a life imbalance, which makes it more difficult for the individual to access “executive function,” a self-regulation system that allows an individual to plan, focus attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

Using the analogy of seeing a bear in the forest, Rowe said that the first reaction is to run, “but what if you’re the kid in the home, and the bear comes home every night?” she said. “What if you have to go home to the bear every night? What if school is the bear, and you’re an under-functioning student who’s not quite cut out for the system?”

While the Kennett school district does not administer an ACE questionnaire to students, there are several measures in place that provide each student with social, academic and personal lifelines. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) at Kennett Middle School and the Kennett Intervention Program (KIT) at Kennett High School provide additional resources for students and their parents who are in need of support, and is staffed by trained social workers, counselors, teachers, administrators and nurses.

In addition, teachers in the district are trained in suicide prevention, opioid training and mandated reporting which, in accordance with Pa. Act 126 (2013), requires that all school and independent contractors of school entities provide child abuse recognition and reporting training to all employees, including contracted substitute teachers who have direct contact with children.

Several years ago, Dr. Terri Erbacher, an author, school psychologist for 15 years and professor of psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, met with school staff in order to provide the district with a screening instrument that counselors and social workers can use to asses students at risk.

“Based on the results of the risk screening, we move forward with with a recommendation for parents,” Barber said. “It is our own tool that was vetted through professionals in the field.”

“The ultimate outcome is that we find out more about the students and what may be the cause for what’s happening,” Tomasetti said. “They yield the same outcome [as the ACE questionnaire], even though they are not necessarily the same instrument.”

‘Minding Your Mind’

The Kennett school district is about to take another step to address mental health in its schools. On April 17 at the Kennett High School auditorium, beginning at 6:45 p.m., the district will welcome a presentation by Minding Your Mind, an organization that provides mental health education to adolescents, teens and young adults, their parents, teachers and school administrators, and the community, in order to reduce the stigma and destructive behaviors often associated with mental health issues. Minding Your Mind student presentations help students learn to recognize the warning signs of mental illness in themselves and their friends, and teach students that mental health issues and illnesses are common and treatable.

“Some of our constituents might think that mental health really isn’t a school district’s responsibility, but our staff’s point is, ‘We know it is,’” Tomasetti said. “We wish it wasn’t, but we know that there are kids who come to us who have difficulties.

“Everyone can sit around and ask who’s job is it to do this, but we’re going to do whatever we can in working with parents to give our kids the best education possible,” Tomasetti added. “We want them to be high achievers, but we also want them to be good citizens. A lot of times, because we have a lot of students in our school district, they tell us things. They tell their teachers things, they tell their counselors things that maybe they don’t tell other people. We look at this as a collaborative effort. We’ve got to help where we can help.”

Barber referred to the meeting he and Tomasetti had with Rowe and Kauffman as “a continued discussion on school safety, and what we can do to best support our students and parents, from a mental health perspective – continuing the conversation about what’s being done and what we can continue to do to best support our community.”

Rowe and Kauffman said that they plan to extend the conversation beyond the KCSD and into the community. They are currently in discussions with Kennett Flash General Manager Andrew Miller to begin hosting TED Talk-like seminars at the venue.

“Our kids, born after a certain date on the calendar, think that [school shootings] are a part of the normal world,” Rowe said. “For those of us who didn’t grow up this way, we’re watching these school shootings and thinking, ‘This is totally insane.’ Our goal with the district is not to ask about safety issues. We know that they’re handling that. We don’t want to talk about guns in schools, or have debates about mental health. Our goal is to talk about how can we infuse wellness into this school district.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.