ACHS Mental Health Matters Club Makes a Difference
The Mental Health Matters Club (MHMC) at Alexandria City High School (ACHS) helps students improve their well-being by encouraging conversations about mental health. MHMC was started during the pandemic by former ACHS student Helen Cooper as a way for students to connect and share resources about mental health.
Thanks to a grant from the Alexandria City Department of Community and Human Services, the club hosted a two-week “Break Room” series this May at ACHS. MHMC partnered with Friends of the Alexandria Mental Health Center, which helped secure volunteers to teach yoga, zumba, stress management, art therapy and mindfulness — all of which were offered free for students after school.
“The vision behind creating the ‘break room’ was offering students a healthy way to deal with the stress of the testing season, for both advanced placement exams, as well as standards of learning. Students felt providing 30-minute sessions right after school targeting a variety of interests would allow students to socialize with one another in a healthy, safe environment,” Club Sponsor and ACHS Co-Department Social Studies Chair Bernadette DeSario said. Alexandria City Public Schools community partner Move2Learn was on hand to assist club members.
Club President Promise Duah believes MHMC activities help address the pressure of testing season, finals and homework that can take a toll on students. “I think simply venting to a friend or a person they trust can help them relieve some of that pent-up stress they've been holding all of this time,” she said. “And who knows? Maybe a friend has a resource or two they can share to help out.”
Through its discussions, the club also helps to address the stigma often associated with mental health concerns. “One of our goals in the future is to work with those planning social, emotional and academic learning lessons to provide additional support and to share information on local resources that are available,” DeSario stated.
“I think our club provides a chill, non-judgmental space for students to share ideas about how we can improve the mental health situation in our community and any concerns they may have about any problems they see as well,” Duah added. “And if you want a place where you can socialize and just talk about anything, we're good at that too.”
- Alexandria City High School