Earlier this year, Fredonia High School principal Darrin Paschke mentioned wanting to set up programs at the school to help students with their mental health. After a recent training day at school, one of these foundations may see its way into the Fredonia School District in the future.
Led by Margie Wright, Fredonia’s Director of Curriculum and Human Resources, representatives from the #SameHere movement sat down with faculty and staff at the school, sharing who they are and what they’re talking about. Wright said #SameHere representatives, including founder Eric Kussin, held staff roundtables throughout the training day, and the need for this comes from the overall welfare of the school. .
“It grew out of the idea of staff mental health, student mental well-being and removing stigma,” she says. “As administrators, we often look to ourselves for support and we know we want it, we need it, but we’re not equipped either.”
Kussin and #SameHere Schools Principal David Hymowitz, who were both at Fredonia School, each have different backgrounds as to how they got there. Hymowitz is a licensed social worker, which gave him a traditional path to a foundation like this, but Kussin’s path was different. He never imagined himself working in the field of mental health and he recognizes that he is not a mental health professional, but his message and his initiative are always able to help people.
“My brain and my body hit a brick wall” Kussin said. “I effectively stopped being a person for two and a half years. …I finally came to learn from the experiences that I had as a child…and how the accumulation of what I went through over the of this period has accumulated in me… So I had the chance to learn the modalities of healing.
From there, using his experience working for professional sports teams, Kussin made connections to create #SameHere, with people willing to share stories and talk about what’s happened to people, not where they’re going. .
“Often when we talk about mental health and see organizations walk into schools, offices and sports teams to discuss this topic, we lead with terms like depression, anxiety and mental illness,” Kussin said. “What it does is turn off 80% of the room. This percentage of the room says they are not in this category. Our message to #SameHere is that these things don’t happen to one in five of us, but to five of us who go through difficult life events.
Kussin praised Wright and Fredonia for bringing #SameHere to meet teachers first, because of how schools have dealt with mental health in the past. Instead of giving presentations on specific topics, giving insight into how life affects people and where it leads, the crowd being spoken to is less sectioned. Kussin said he looks forward to returning to Fredonia in the future.
“I had the chance to work with the teachers today,” Kussin said. “I can’t wait to get back and work with students, work with parents, and use the technologies we have to connect everyone through apps. … create a community connected through a data side of things.
Fredonia Superintendent Dr. Bradley Zilliox said the school assessed Kussin’s presentation and foundation through a few different perspectives, including where the trustees are and how they can help themselves, and how they can effectively help students overcome the challenges they face.
“I like the word platform,” Zilliox said. “This is the platform from which we will work on both levels. … We look forward to working together and we look forward to having you in front of our students.
School board chairman Brian Aldrich compared teaching mental health to teaching all other school subjects, saying it is equally important to educate students in this category. “We teach literature, we teach reading, we teach mathematics and social sciences”, Aldrich said. “And yet, it’s kind of an essential thing that’s very beneficial.”
For more information on #SameHere and specifically their school curriculum, visit https://samehereglobal.org/samehere-schools/.