Students Learn of Mental Health Awareness, Substance Abuse Issues

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Weston Middle School students learn about addiction issues from Community Counseling Solutions professionals on Thursday. (Contributed photo)

Weston Middle School and Weston-McEwen High School hosted multiple guest speakers Thursday for the Mental Health Awareness and Substance Abuse Prevention Day.

The event aimed to provide students with the tools and resources to address these critical issues.

“Increasing awareness around mental health and substance abuse is important to helping our students make healthier life decisions,” said Ann Vescio, superintendent of Athena-Weston School District. “We know that if we can reach students before they begin experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, they are less likely to begin using them. It is critical to talk about mental health supports and coping skills before a student experiences a mental health crisis.”

Several local organizations, including Umatilla County Public Health, Umatilla County Sheriff Department, Yellowhawk, Psychological Services of Pendleton, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), and Community Counseling Solutions participated in the event.

Several guest speakers shared their insights and expertise. During the afternoon at Weston Middle School, Shawna Calvert talked about Careers in Social Services, Merle Kirk from CTUIR discussed Alcohol Prevention, Rachel Stout from Umatilla County Public Health presented on the risks of vaping, Isabel Devera from Umatilla County Public Health spoke on overdose prevention, and Chelsie & Timmy from Community Counseling Solutions talked about how to recognize addiction.

The Mental Health Awareness Day featured a range of sessions focused on mental health and substance abuse prevention, including “you-stress vs. de-stress,” coping skills, supporting yourself and others in crisis, neurodiversity and autism, trauma and mindfulness, and suicide prevention. The substance abuse prevention sessions covered topics such as alcohol prevention, overdose definition and prevention, signs of addiction, legal issues around drug and alcohol abuse, harmful effects of vaping, and careers in mental health.The schools sent a notification encouraging parents to participate in conversations about these topics with their children. The mental health team at Athena-Weston School District is also available to provide further resources and support to students and parents.

“We truly appreciate the support of our county mental health and substance abuse prevention professionals and community members who contributed their time and resources,” said Vescio.

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