Mental health is a hot topic for Generation Z. In one Montgomery County high school, students have come together to fight stigma around issues like depression, anxiety and suicide.
At Quince Orchard High School, students in the Our Minds Matter club are taking time out of their day to focus on mental health, with support from the Josh Anderson Foundation and the Devon C. Rubenstein Foundation. Each month they talk about a different issue like coping skills or trauma awareness.
"It’s a very important space to have some very important conversations that are not really had, that honestly do really need to be had," said Christopher, a student leader at the school.
This safe space is possible because of two families’ heartbreaks.
In 2009, Josh Anderson died by suicide at 17 years old. A year later, his family created the Josh Anderson Foundation and the model for Our Minds Matter.
In 2015, tragedy also struck the Rubinstein family when their 20-year-old son Devon died by suicide.
“Until my son died, I had no idea suicide was the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults,” Mitchell Rubenstein said.
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The two families and their foundations joined together to make a change.
The Rubinstein Foundation is totally funding Our Minds Matter — so there's no cost to the school system. The Anderson foundation worked with school psychologists and counselors to create the curriculum and then turned it over to the students.
"It's student-led because teens are talking to teens and that's how something like mental health that has that negative stigma will be eradicated," said Lauren Anderson, Josh’s sister and executive director of the foundation.
Both families believe that if their sons had access to a similar program, their stories could have turned out differently.
Our Minds Matter is already active in nearly 20 Fairfax County schools. Both foundations hope to expand the club nationwide, but need donations to do so.