When Emily Entwistle started high school four years ago there was one student club that stood out to her.
“It was a little bit of a shock, a reality check,” said Entwistle, who is now a senior at Bernardo Heights High School.
She’s talking about the Safe Promise Club, a student-run group connected to the Sandy Hook organization that works to prevent school shootings bullying and raise suicide awareness.
“This is the world that we have to live in, this is what we have to be preventing on a daily basis,” said Entwistle.
Active shooter drills, cyberbullying and mental health struggles are things many teens are far too familiar with.
“When I am in school, every single new classroom I’m in, I look for where am I going to go, how am I going to get out,” said Kuana Aquino, a senior at Bernardo Heights.
Yet they often feel like their voices as stakeholders are left out. So to change that, Rep. Peters and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm hosted a roundtable with students.
One thing students suggested: social media literacy education for adults.
“I think social media plays such a huge part in mental health and the issue of suicide and it’s something that our generation is familiar with in a unique aspect that maybe parents aren’t as much,” said Entwistle.
Another student asked for more educational resources for parents on mental health.
“A lot of people are really scared to talk about how they feel or talk about the mental disorders they may be going through and they just keep it all bottled up inside and that’s what causes suicide,” said fellow senior Miriam Labib.
Suicide rates for youth and young adults ages 10 to 24 have increased by at least 7%, according to the latest numbers from the county.
“We want to make sure we provide the right support so we avoid these tragedies in the future,” Rep. Peters said.
Both Peters and Palm say they will take all suggestions with them as they work to improve mental health services in schools. Meanwhile, students say they’re thankful someone is finally listening.
“I’m just really grateful they were able to see the teenage perspective,” said Entwistle.