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Treasure Coast organization helps students readjust to classroom life

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:01 AM EDT
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We are three weeks away from the start of the new school year, and for many students, it will be their first time back in a classroom in more than a year.

That's why one mental health organization on the Treasure Coast is working to make sure children are well prepared for the transition.

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"It all started because I was depressed. I called a suicide hotline because I didn’t feel safe for myself," said Marisa Mitchell, 16.

Speaking with WPTV, Mitchell bravely shared her story of overcoming a very difficult time in her life.

"It was all the stress going on and I was just going to middle school," Mitchell said. "I saw my body different. My face was breaking out. So I saw myself different than I saw others."

Now a more confident South Fork High School student, Mitchell is participating in a series of "Mental Health Matters" videos through Tykes & Teens, a Treasure Coast mental health organization that helped her through her darkest days, and hopes to help others as they prepare to go back to school.

"I think the one thing we have to understand is that everybody is going through this time differently. So our expectations for others, we almost have to take a step back and give each other grace," said Dorothy Oppenheiser, the director of prevention services for Tykes & Teens. "The mental health of our kids is just as concerning as anything else in our community."

Oppenheiser said the weekly "Mental Health Matters" videos will focus on anxiety, depression, reestablishing routines, and other factors to help students readjust to school life.

"If we can look at the strengths that kids have and look at ways to connect them, it doesn’t have to be traditional," Oppenheiser said. "Whether it's the chorus or band or debate club, helping out in the library, anything to create a healthy connection with a healthy, stable adult."

Oppenheiser offered some advice to parents for signs of anxiety or depression to look out for in your child, as well as ways to support them. You can learn more by watching this video:

Treasure Coast mental health organization helps students readjust to classroom life

Mitchell's video focuses on handling anxiety.

"I might read a book, I might listen to music if I'm allowed in class. Because you always want to find that one teacher who is your safe space. I might write," Mitchell said.

Mitchell added that dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year has taught her a lot about herself.

"I've just learned to love myself more. I've learned to embrace my style and personality," Mitchell said.

And hopes by sharing her experiences, other teenagers will feel less alone and empowered to get help if they need it.

"I like making a difference. I want to make a difference. I want to make people feel more happy," Mitchell said. "Just because you have anxiety doesn’t make you different, or depression. You feel like you’re different, but everyone goes through it. It might not be the same as you."

A good message for all of us to remember as we get ready for this next phase of education.

Mitchell's "Mental Health Matters" video will air on the Tykes & Teens Facebook page at 1 p.m. Wednesday. You can watch it by clicking here.

For more information about the "Mental Health Matters" videos and additional resources for families from Tykes & Teens, click here.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is available 24 hours a day in both English and Spanish.

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