Serious concerns kick start mental health programs across Sequoia and distrcit

Rio Popper and Taylor Gayner

Few students are aware of Sequoia’s newer and lesser known services and initiatives. Meant to help students dealing with mental-health issues, these programs teach lessons that can be brought into day-to-day life, and are part of an ongoing conversation about reoccurring tragedies and continuing struggles regarding mental health.

In the spring of 2016, a task force was created at the district to help kickstart new programs and add support and raise awareness for older ones.

“The task force really helped get things moving,” district-wide mental-health coordinator Karen Li said.

The district has started two main programs in the past year: Kognito and the Green Folders.

Kognito is a video-game-esque training system where participants are able to interact with pretend individuals who struggle with an array of mental-health issues. Students, parents and staff can practice constructive responses.

“Staff have said that [the program] has been really helpful,” Li said. “We’re rolling it out to students in Life Skills classes this year.”

The Green Folders are a series of documents based on the University of California-founded Red Folders: documents meant to educate readers on mental health and suicide prevention, among other topics. The Green Folders—the district’s spinoff—are delineated categories’ based on school. They explain the process that one should follow to help different people.

“[The Green Folders] are a series of algorithms,” Li said. “They tell you exactly what to do and how to do it, so that encouraging someone to get help is simpler.”

Sequoia itself also has new programs: former guidance counselor Shari Schussel has started a mindfulness group, presented to classes about mindfulness and plans to start other initiatives like student-activism panels to increase student-teacher communication and an anti-bullying campaign.

“[Principal Sean] Priest and I sat down and decided that mental health was really important, and that I should address the issues that I continually saw as a guidance counselor but was unable to address in that role,” Schussel said.

The aims of the district-wide and the Sequoia-centric programs are the same, both striving to provide resources and information about mental health.

“Our main goals, I would say, are to educate the whole Sequoia [community],” Li said, “parents, students and staff, about mental health.”