You don't have to have a diagnosed mental illness to care about your mental health. That was the message from Jordan Corcoran, the founder of mental health organization Listen, Lucy, during her visit with Steel Valley middle school and high school students on Wednesday.
A Pittsburgh native, Ms. Corcoran shared her own mental health journey, including the impact her mental illness had on her in high school and college, the path she took to reach a diagnosis, and how she has emerged on the other side to become a mental health advocate.
Throughout her presentation, Ms. Corcoran addressed the stigmas that surround mental health, including some of the off-hand terminology used to describe someone. She said that even a subtle shift by describing someone by saying, "She has a mental illness" versus saying, "She is mentally ill" can help reduce the stigma around mental health.
Along with sharing her background and mental health journey, Ms. Corcoran shared coping techniques with the students - ranging from breathing techniques to the value of exercise and healthy eating - as well as access to apps like xhalr.com, TalkSpace, HeadSpace, and 988, the new number for the national suicide/crisis hotline. She encouraged students to reach out for help when they need it, reminding them that asking for help does not mean they have failed.
Ms. Corcoran shared that recent data from the CDC indicates that 1-in-3 school-age children has a diagnosable mental illness, from anxiety and depression to panic disorder and more. But even without a diagnosed mental illness, she said, we all need to prioritize our mental health just as we do with our physical health.
Steel Valley High School student Breanne Francis introduced Ms. Corcoran and spoke briefly about the importance of mental health. Ms. Corcoran was invited to speak to the students by district counselor Ms. Casey Walker and middle school teacher/Stand Together advisor Ms. Ryan Dunmire. The Stand Together program has worked throughout the last couple of years to raise awareness in the middle school about the importance of mental health and reducing stigmas amongst adolescents. Ms. Corcoran's visit was supported by a grant through Healthy Schools.