In recent days, Poudre School District has suffered unimaginable tragedies when two students took their own lives. An unfortunate fact regarding events like these is the frequency at which stories like this are told. Families and communities are left behind to pick up the pieces and make sense of the heartbreak.
Integrated Services’ social worker Derrick Searle and Poudre High School’s counselor Cassie Poncelow sought to offer support to the whole Fort Collins community. Together their dream came to fruition with The Poudre High School Mental Health Matters Event. Professional presenters from around the community volunteered their time and expertise for the open event. Topics such as “How to Help a Grieving Teen”, “What to Say, When to Say It, How to Say It, and What Not to Say”, “Hurt! How to Identify and Help Those Who Self-Harm”, “Recognizing Signs of Stress and Ways to Help” and “Ask a Therapist” are a few of the workshops that were offered. These workshops offered a unique space for the community to find information and support for a variety of topics.
“Cass took it to a level that I never could have imagined,” Derrick Searle shared about organizing the event with Cassie Poncelow. The event was the combined effort of 2 programs, Counseling and Social Work, that don’t often intersect. The event was made possible by Poudre High School staff and students who volunteered, as well as the numerous mental health professionals who selflessly offered their time. “Mental health is a huge concern for the adolescents in the community and there are a lot of adults that want to contribute,” Poncelow says.
Student Ambassador, Ayushi, chose to participate in the event because she understands the stress and pressure of being a teenager. The student leaders that make up PHS Ambassadors are a trained group who provide underclassman resources and support with whatever they are going through. The group tackles hard topics such as managing stress, sexual assault prevention and teen dating violence. “I love that instead of it just being a conversation for my age group, it is open to the community to help and hopefully alleviate some of the stigma that goes with mental illness,” says Ayushi regarding the event.
The Poudre High School Mental Health Matters event created a platform to start conversations that will hopefully produce a healthier community. It was a place where a father from the same neighborhood that lost a child to tragedy, was able to come and find words to share with his own children struggling to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521