Students Advocate For Mental Health Resources


According to the New York Times, 7/10 teenagers see mental health as a “major issue” in high school life.

When the Board of Education announced that they were having a meeting pertaining to fund distributions in Howard County, Wilde Lake sophomore Vaniya Khan knew that it was her time to speak up on an underrepresented and underfunded issue: mental health.

On April 7, Khan was attending her monthly youth group, Howard County’s Teen Interfaith Initiative, when she was asked what issues facing the county she felt were particularly important. Without pause, she immediately responded that mental health resources in the county are lacking. “They wanted to pass something that would fund more resources for Howard County students who are struggling with mental illness,” Khan said. “They just needed someone to persuade them to do it.”

This prompted Khan and her fellow group member, Nashrah Rahman, to sign up for a speaking slot at the Board of Education Meeting on April 24. The goal of their speech was to bring awareness to the Board about mental health, and the resources needed in schools to properly address these concerns. She decided that using personal experiences would be the most effective way to deliver her speech since they “show more importance,” she said. “Statistics and facts are persuasive, but personal experience shows the reality of it, especially as a student in a Howard County School.  

The first half of the speech, spoken by Rahman, addressed the amount of stress teenagers pile on from both school and extracurriculars. When students have no one to talk to about their stress, they often bottle up their emotions or turn to friends who often aren’t equipped to help. Both girls made a stance that, “It is time to abandon our ignorance and take action,” when it comes to mental health and the stigma around it. Khan’s half of the speech focused more on a personal incident she had with a friend who was battling depression. This friend was checked on by counselors, but no action was ever taken directly with the student. The counselors did not have access to adequate resources to help, resources that could be obtainable through proper funding. Khan felt extremely nervous and consistently checked up on her friend due to the fear of losing her.

At the meeting on April 24th, Kahn found herself becoming increasingly anxious. However, as she stepped up to the stage, sat at the table, and faced the members of the board, she let the words of her speech carry her anxieties away. When she finished, she was met with silent applause, as to not disrupt other meetings going on and to keep the professionalism of the meeting. She pushed herself out of her comfort zone and hopefully made a positive impact.

Both Khan and Rahman want funding for mental health resources to become increasingly available to Howard County students. “Some students can only get support from the school or their friends since families can’t always provide for them,” she said. “Mental health is kind of an uncontrollable factor, and we aren’t really taught to deal with it, so those who need the help should have access to it.”