Our Minds Matter: Spring Leadership Training

By Our Minds Matter
April 06, 2021

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 21, Our Minds Matter (OMM) had another successful leadership training. 82 student leaders from 44 OMM club chapters across the country joined together virtually to continue their mental health advocacy efforts. Of these participants, 25 FCPS student leaders represented 13 FCPS public high schools across the county. It was also OMM’s most international class yet as student leaders participated from Medellin, Colombia, as well as Northern Ireland.

Every Our Minds Matter meeting starts with an opening ritual focused on social connection. We asked students to share when they feel most themselves. It was apparent that many of them felt comfortable when they were with friends, family, or doing their favorite hobby like cooking, sports, or playing with a pet.

The training next shifted towards a personal story from Catherine Royston, OMM’s own Program Coordinator. Catherine shared with us a very personal story about her mental health journey to include her anxiety and desire to be perfect. 

Here are some points she emphasized during her story: 

  • You are never alone. Although a mental health condition can feel isolating, you are never alone because there are people to support you. 
  • Recovery from a mental health condition is possible. There is always hope. With the right support and treatment, healing and recovery from a mental health condition is possible. 
  • You never know what someone is going through. No matter what you observe on the outside or on social media, you never know what someone is going through. Be a friend. Be willing to listen. Trust your gut when something doesn't feel right. Encouraging a friend to seek help or confide in a trusted adult if you are concerned about a friend. We are human beings...we are not supposed to be perfect or have it all together.

Catherine further shared that going to therapy and medication has helped her maintain her mental health and reminded student leaders that it is okay to seek help. 

Following Catherine's story, participants entered breakout rooms to discuss what aspects of her story resonated with them. In addition, training attendees reflected back to a year ago at the start of the pandemic to acknowledge how life has changed and how they have grown.

Here is what some students shared out in a large group what their breakout room discussed:

  • One student shared how her sister experienced suicidal ideation after she was injured in an accident. She also said the pandemic helped her grow a lot, it gave her the idea to start an Our Minds Matter club at her school. She was not used to hearing about mental health in Colombia. 
  • Another student shared she has a lot of anxiety and that a lot of people have been struggling during the pandemic. She has grown a ton during the pandemic and did not realize how much mental health plays a role in our collective lives until now.
  • One student said she knows how Catherine’s isolation feels. She said that many of her friends with mental health issues feel the same way. She also felt stressed by the pandemic.
  • Another teen said she struggles with anxiety and takes medication for it. Her father is a psychiatrist and helped her get help. She was afraid that taking the drugs would make her dependent, but like Catherine said, she realized taking medication for a medical condition does not mean one has an addiction. 
  • A student said he liked Catherine’s story because it reminded him why he likes attending OMM meetings. It allows him to speak with others about anxiety. As a result, he enjoys being an OMM leader and planning the meetings. He is inspired by Catherine’s vulnerability and the vulnerability of other students. It makes him feel like he is not alone.

Overall, the OMM leaders were eager to share experiences and tips on how to deal with feelings of anxiety and perfectionism. The training next shifted towards some leadership development and organizational planning tips. 

Edison Minds Matter (EMM) from Edison High School in Northern Virginia started by giving advice on how to properly create a leadership planning/succession process. A month or two ago, they advertised the new leadership positions for two months and reached out to students, personally and on social media to fill leadership roles of graduating seniors. The rising President of Edison Minds Matter said that leadership “internships” are good. This is where the rising leaders shadow old leaders and plan with them digitally each week. Another student leader of EMM stressed the need for good communication between leaders.

OMM then awarded $1,000 in Club Rewards to clubs who have been consistently holding meetings, taking attendance, submitting surveys on time, and other similar tasks. This money is stored in the OMM club bank and can be used for swag, guest speakers, and school-wide campaigns to enhance the reach and impact of their club.

The training ended with a mindfulness session. Participants were invited to take a comfortable seat. They were asked to breathe and think of aspects of spring that really touched us. It could be the sun, the smell of the flowers, the noise of the animals, or even an idea like taking a nice picnic with friends. 

The session ended with the most smiles OMM has ever seen virtually and a fun sneak peek of our upcoming Thrive Brunch on May 23 to celebrate all of the OMM clubs success during the 2020-2021 school year. Find more information on the Thrive Brunch here

Contact program@ourmindsmatter.org to get more information about how to get involved.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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