Starting the Conversation: Mental Health


Kristen Miller

Psychological wellbeing is vital to the overall functioning of a human, especially during developmental stages and adolescent years prior to entering adulthood. Kicking off the second semester, State High seniors gathered in the north building auditorium on Monday, January 9th, 2018 to hear the story of a young man’s struggle with his mental health.

The school ran on a long homeroom schedule in order to allot time for Jordan Burnham, a twenty eight year old mental health advocate based around Philadelphia, to share his experience dealing with depression since he was a teenager. Burnham’s genuine approach helped create a comfortable environment for students at State High, encouraging them to ask questions and think about their own mental health. “High school can be a stressful and overwhelming experience for many students and college can be just as challenging, if not more so. College life factors such as independence, managing time, work and finances, relationships, and access to parties and substances can sometimes lead to a higher risk of mental health problems in college students,” said twelfth grade guidance counselor Paul Brigman. “Our hope is to equip students to understand the importance of mental health and feel able to access resources when needed as they enter adulthood.”

Burnham was a senior in high school when he attempted to take his own life by jumping out of a nine story bedroom window. Although not without suffering multiple critical injuries, he miraculously survived the fall. From that moment forward, Burnham was able to begin his long journey to recovery, both with his physical and mental health.

Throughout the talk, Burnham used humor and relatability to captivate the minds of students and faculty with his powerful story. “It was cool to see that he was able to connect to us since he was so young,” said Kendra Hindman, senior. “He made counseling seem not as scary,” Hindman added.

In addition, Burnham prefaced his story of recovery by going into detail about the years that led up to his suicide attempt. The talk touched on the role alcohol played in Burnhams depression and how it was used as an unhealthy outlet for his emotions. He also discussed the hardships that come with moving, managing pressures at school, bullying from other students, and struggling to find parental approval. Some students were hesitant about the discussion but ended up enjoying it. Katherine Groves, senior, said, “When I first heard about the speaker, I wasn’t too thrilled. However, Jordan turned out to be amazing. He wasn’t just lecturing us, he was having a conversation, and it was a conversation that needed to be had.”

Burnham emphasized that high school students should avoid allowing negative influences to accumulate and instead try viewing them as isolated incidences. This action alone would provide immense progress to the recovery process, which often include medication, a healthy support system, and counseling. “Mental health affects a lot of people, so it’s important to address,” said senior Jake Hall. “[Burnham] talked about issues that I could relate back to my own life; my parents’ divorce, family problems, seeing a therapist, things like that,” Hall said.

Following the talk, administration at State High is hoping that students will come seek support before mental health symptoms compromise their well-being or overall happiness. “School counselors at State High work diligently every day to advocate for students with mental health struggles and to work with teachers, parents, and community service providers to meet the needs of our student population,” said Brigman. “Many students don’t realize that their counselors are trained, certified, and here to help navigate mental health problems.”

Although teenage depression is still a prevalent issue in society today, great measures are being taken by individuals, families, and schools across the country to combat it.