Lewis HS Hosts Education Sec. Cardona, Surgeon General Murthy for National Mental Health Forum
John R. Lewis High School was honored to host U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy this week for a national town hall on mental health and schools.
“We know learning is going to go better when you’re feeling better mentally,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid, Ed.D., said while welcoming more than 200 Lewis High School students to the forum. “This is the number one topic on the minds of our students, our staff, our community and our country. It is so important that we talk about mental health, because we can’t work to improve things that we aren’t openly discussing.”
A panel discussion included questions from Lewis HS students and insights from Sec. Cardona, Surgeon General Murthy, CDC Director for the Division of Adolescent and School Health Kathleen Ethier, and Dr. Mike Axler, Acting Director, Intervention and Prevention Services at Fairfax County Public Schools.
The town hall gathering came days after the release of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found in 2021, “almost 60% of female students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year and nearly 25% made a suicide plan.”
Surgeon General Murthy said he worries the country becomes “numb to these numbers.”
“These are not normal numbers, this should not be happening in our society,” he said, while calling out multiple contributing factors to the crisis, including social media content, anxiety over the environment and climate change, the pressure to succeed and violence across the U.S.
Panelists also discussed mental health grants under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the urgent need for support to address the mental health crisis.
FCPS will use its Department of Education grant to provide prevention and early intervention services, increase student access to school-based mental and behavioral health services, provide targeted and timely mental health consultations, and reduce caseloads for mental health service providers.
“The mental well-being of our students will determine their level of success more than whether they can read or not. Period.,” Cardona said at the Lewis HS event.