Over 200 students, parents and administrators gathered at Santa Clara University on Sept. 29 where a mental health summit was held. The summit, which was in session from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Locatelli Student Activities Center, was organized by the student-run youth action group Agents of Change.

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Community members listen to the introduction to the Mental Health Summit. The introduction was given by the Executive Director of Agents of Change, Tarun Galagali. Photo by Om Khandekar

Agents of Change is a group of interns that originated from congressman Ro Khanna’s 2016 congressional campaign. The group, still in its early stages of development, is focused on working towards the betterment of the community.

The president of Agents of Change, Siddharth Bansal, is a senior at Irvington High School. His hope is that the summit will have a lasting impact on those who attended.

“Our goal here is to provide the community with awareness about mental health as well as getting them engaged,” Bansal said. “And I feel like this is unique because it incorporates parents, students and administration. This is something pretty new in our area and I feel like it has the potential to create change.”

One of the teachers present for the summit was English teacher David Clarke, who spoke during a panel where administrators voiced their opinions.

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Vicki Abeles, a film director, discusses mental health. She was the director of the documentary titled Race to Nowhere, a film which explores student stress. Photo by Om Khandekar

“[Mental health] is something I’m thinking about all the time anyway,”  Clarke said. “I think sometimes that students may not realize the extent to which the amount of time that [the]administration and teachers are devoting to thinking about students stress and how we’re trying to deal with tearing our hair out about it because there’s only a limited amount of stuff that we can do about it.”

MVHS senior Hasini Shyamsundar is one of the founding members of Agents of Change and also discussed mental health issues during the summit.

“I want students to take away one thing, especially that they’re not alone,” Shyamsundar said. “And I know a lot of students face many mental health problems on their own and they think that this is really a dark place for them. But when you’re here you see that it is a widespread issue across the entire country and that it’s something that we can work towards together. I want [parents]to take away how important communication is to and for both parents understand to their students and for students to understand their parents.”

Stress and mental health is a growing issue in our country, as highlighted by a survey conducted by Agents of Change. Clarke found the summit to be successful in sharing this important message.

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Students discuss their thoughts about mental health and their experiences in Bay Area Schools. The panel was lead entirely by students. Photo by Om Khandekar

“It sounded like what they’re trying to do is just raise awareness and then make it clear to certain people who are involved that that this is something that’s important and that there are people talking about it,” Clarke said. “If I can contribute to that then I’m happy to do it.”

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