212 sponsors a series of five mental health discussions

Jack Marker, page editor

If you were mentally ill, would you share that information or would you keep it a secret? The stigma surrounding mental health can hinder people struggling with mental health problems from sharing. “I believe there is a stigma in mental health because of the society we live in. For years mental health has been suppressed and not recognized. People see mental health as unequal to physical health, when in reality they are equal,” senior Ella McGarvey said.

The 212 cabinet has recently sponsored a series of five mental health discussions throughout the rest of the school year to promote awareness and dispel the stigma that surrounds mental illness. “[We] hope by getting students involved in this series it can bring attention to the stigma our culture carries and begin to remove it within the high school,” McGarvey said.

Senior Anna McDonald added, “212 really wants to educate people about mental health and the stigma surrounding it.”

The cabinet hired Peggy Polacek, a renowned speaker who has a master of arts in holistic health from St. Catherine’s University, to speak for five sessions during flex time. The cabinet’s counselor Julies Bascom helped the cabinet find Polacek. The cabinet thought Polacek was a perfect fit for the job because of her depth of knowledge surrounding mental health and her personal experiences with it. “She was misdiagnosed in 1995 with a chronic illness that she actually didn’t have. Since then, she has learned and advocated for the principles of mental health,” McGarvey said. “[Polacek] has worked in multiple crisis centers around Minneapolis and has started her own company to empower individuals seeking emotional, physical, and spiritual healing,” McGarvey said.

The cabinet will consider the sessions a success, “if any student comes to the series and feels transformed,” McGarvey said. However, the first session was already meaningful for the cabinet in that, “some students came who I had never met before, which made me feel like 212 has a significant impact on students’ lives,” McGarvey said.

The first session took place the week before finals, which likely accounted for the low attendance. “Hopefully the number of people that come to the talks will increase in the future,” McDonald said. The next talk about mental health is Feb. 28, during flex time.