Golden Apple: Pequot Lakes And Brainerd School Districts Host Events Focusing On Mental Health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 youth ages 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. The Brainerd and Pequot Lakes School Districts have been working to shed light on the topic that so many deal with but many are afraid to talk about.
In the age of technology and smartphones, human connection seems to be declining. Joe Beckman, a motivational speaker from the Twin Cities, talked to students and parents Monday about its direct connection to our mental health.
“There is no coincidence that anxiety, depression, and suicide are up and at the same time, human connection is down,” said Beckman during his talk with parents of area students Monday night.
The Brainerd and Pequot Lakes School Districts have come together in an initiative to talk about mental health and its effects on students.
“We are constantly working on the safe and collaborative culture of our school. We want Pequot Lakes to be that place that every kid feel like they belong, and there’s kids that don’t,” said Aaron Nelson, Pequot Lakes High School Principal.
To address this topic, the school districts brought in Joe Beckman to talk with students as well as parents. He started the morning at Brainerd High School and then traveled to Pequot Lakes where he spoke to middle schoolers and high schoolers. Overall, Beckman spoke to over a thousand students.
“I speak on stages in school communities all across the country. To students, teachers, to parents. The message that I really focus in on is the importance and power of human connection,” explained Beckman.
Beckman focused on three main ideas. The first is the importance of self-worth.
“My hope is that kids understand that they matter and that they’re enough just where they’re at right now,” Beckman said.
The second is resiliency.
“Knowing that all of us are going to get punched in the mouth by life at some point and the question isn’t, ‘are we going to get punched?’ The question is, ‘what are we going to do next?’” explained Beckman.
The third, and what Beckman argues it the most important, is human connection.
“I talk about the importance of separating from our screens and looking up and realizing how important just eye contact, and noticing somebody, and talking to somebody. Sometimes just a few words or a smile,” Beckman added.
The school administrators hope that students and parents take away something important from Joe’s talk.
“We have a mountain of evidence that tells us that if a student has just even one adult that is deeply engaged in them, knows them well, knows what they like, dislike, that that student will be much more successful in school,” explained Mike O’Neil, Pequot Lakes Middle School Principal. “So challenging our educators to be that staff member for somebody.”
“Our kids face challenges today that we when we were kids didn’t face. But there is also a reason to be hopeful,” added Nelson.
The schools hope to take what they have learned from hosting Joe and continue the conversation past the auditorium and into the school days ahead.
The event held in the Brainerd and Pequot Lakes School Districts was made possible by a partnership between Crow Wing Energized, Pequot Lakes Rotary, the Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, and other community partners.