Mental Health in the Unity Week Spotlight


Sydney Wolfe

Doctor of Psychology Chantel Cortinovis speaks about various topics relating to mental health such as common things teenagers struggle with and different ways to deal with anxiety and depression. Dr. Cortinovis was a guest speaker during the “Mental Health Day ” seminar presented by SJHHS students in No Place for Hate.

Avery Koenig, Arts/Graphics Editor

Unity Week kicked off  on Monday, February 27, with a special section centered around mental health, aiming to provide students with coping methods and spaces where they can talk about their struggles with mental health. 

According to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, as of 2021, 45% of California youth between the ages of 12 and 17 report to be struggling with mental health issues. Of this percentage,  a third report to have been experiencing severe psychological distress that may interfere with their academic and social abilities. Mental health issues are often linked to gender/gender identity, race and ethnicity, and immigration status – all of which are other presentation topics for Unity Week. 

“In the presentation, we’re going to talk about the emotional difficulties and mental health issues that teens struggle with. We’re bringing a psychologist with us to talk about how to cope and how to manage and what those issues could mean for you,” said Joelle Al Ammar, the task force leader for the mental health presentation.

The presentation featured a guest speaker psychologist, Dr. Chantel Cortinovis, who provided students with different methods to help tackle battles with mental health. 

“The psychologist is my aunt so I have a lot of experience on how to cope and to deal with these issues but I also experience them first hand. I do struggle with anxiety and I think it would be great to talk about it because I’m sure they’re common issues,” said Al Ammar.

I just want students to go away learning that there are people that are willing to help them and that everything will be okay. Hopefully they will learn how to cope instead of resorting to worse habits

— Joelle Al Ammar

Al-Ammar and her fellow group members say they have put in a significant amount of time and hard work, inside and outside of school, into organizing the presentation. 

“I’d say I’ve put in quite a bit. It took a lot of creativity, and teamwork, just a lot of little details that had to go into it to be perfect. A lot of things like the titles, there’s a lot of key terms, a lot of communication with the principal, as well as with the guest speaker,” said Al Almmar. 

Some of the student presenters have battled with mental health challenges themselves and shared their own experiences on 2/27 to make their presentations more effective and relatable.

“Back in June I was going to take my SAT and I wasn’t super nervous about it but the night before I could not sleep and my mind was just racing. It was 2 a.m. and I still couldn’t sleep so I decided to cancel my test at 4 a.m. the night before. Internally I couldn’t control what was happening even though out loud I wasn’t worried,” said senior Alexa Bradford, a member of the mental health task force group. 

Presenters hope students took away the importance of discussing serious topics like mental health, and that there are several resources available for them. 

“I just want students to go away learning that there are people that are willing to help them and that everything will be okay. Hopefully, they will learn how to cope instead of resorting to worse habits,” said Al Ammar.