Introduction of VARSA into the sophomore
By Meah McInerney, Reporter
Over the last few weeks, the sophomore English and history classes have had members of local mental health organization,VARSA, come into their classes to facilitate conversations on various mental health topics. During their conversations with students, VARSA aims to teach students strategies and resources to navigate the difficult aspects of mental health as well as the tools to recognize the signs of mental challenges in both their peers and themselves.
VARSA is an organization created to reduce substance use, especially in teens. Over the years they have developed into not only a substance use reduction organization, but a mental health one as well. VARSA has begun changing the meaning of their organization to better reflect their real intentions.
“We brought mental health first aid, a part of VARSA, into the high school because we saw the need for it, as well as that it’s an amazing prevention program,” VARSA representative, Suzan McMann said.
The lessons taught in the classes are varied, touching on many different difficult topics such as self harm, suicide, and eating disorders.
“What we’re trying to do is meet students where they are at different levels. So, in the [lower] grades, meeting a student where they are might mean that they have never used a substance before, so giving them information about the substance [and] giving them information about mental health… because mental health and substance abuse can be—as we’re teaching—so intertwined,” McMann said.
VARSA is continuing to grow and develop their teaching curriculum as the years go on seeing as this is their first year coming into the school to talk to classes.
“We do start [with] primary prevention. Primary prevention is teaching youth that it is not just say no, that is not big scary information. And I think that a lot of people still have in their mind that prevention education is still ‘just say no.’” McMann said.
VARSA is many different things in one organization, for them, it’s not something as simple as telling people to say “no.”
“And that in some ways, VARSA, somehow is connected to ‘just say no’ and we haven’t been about that in a very long time. That’s one thing we’d really like to get out there is that that’s not about what we’re associated with—not at all. [VARSA is] trying to help students have other options. Help students realize when it might look like, especially at the high school level, when it might look like a misuse situation for yourself, and help[ing] your friends,” McMann said.
VARSA is a growing organization focusing on mental health and substance use in many different ways. VARSA’s purpose is to help teens find positive coping mechanisms and learn to identify mental challenges not only being present in others but themselves as well. VARSA hopes that these lessons shed light on difficult topics that aren’t talked about enough in school where it is most needed. Moving forward, VARSA hopes they can be the place that struggling teens can come to for support.
If you’re currently struggling or know someone who is, please reach out for support:
Crisis Line (24/7): 1-866-4CRISIS
Mandi Wilcox (Student Assistant Prevention Professional): firstname.lastname@example.org
VARSA Contact Information: (206) 567-2647 and email@example.com