News

North Salem Club—the Warr;ors—Honored for Opening Conversations about Mental Health



March 20, 2019

The North Salem High School’s student-run mental health club, the Warr;ors, uses a semi-colon in place of the “i”. Ellen Herlihy, the sophomore co-president of the club, stood before the District’s Board of Education and matter-of-factly explained why. “The semi-colon indicates a pause in a sentence. It symbolizes what anyone should do if they are contemplating taking their life.”
 
The commitment to having conversations about mental health like this—casually and non-judgmentally—is why the Warr;ors were honored on March 20, 2019, by Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES’ Regional Suicide Prevention in Schools leadership team.
 
The leadership team, which is facilitated by BOCES’ Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen, is a collaboration between the Putnam County Mental Health, Social Services and the Youth Bureau, the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, Putnam and Westchester Suicide Prevention Taskforces, the Mental Health Associations of Putnam and Westchester, and BOCES. 
 
“We have been forever changed and truly inspired by the Warr;ors’ mission and work,” Dr. Allen said to the Board. She related how Adam VanDerStuyf, the District’s Director of Pupil Personnel Services, who also serves on BOCES’ Regional Suicide Prevention in Schools leadership team, shared a video of a skit the Warr;ors performed. It portrayed the importance of responding appropriately to a student who had been depressed and missed weeks of school. “We knew we had to meet this club. These students have informed the work that we do,” said Dr. Allen.
 
The Warr;ors club was brought to North Salem by guidance counselor Melissa Smith this past fall. In just eight months, the club performed its skit for BOCES, hosted a booth at the Alliance for Safe Kids Conference in Yorktown, and created an art installation for North Salem High School: a white door which students sign to indicate their commitment to opening doors to conversations about mental health. They also started an Instagram account: @nswarriors—which posts a positive message each day.
 
The club members came to the podium to shake hands with VanDerStuyf, Vince DiGrandi, principal of North Salem High School, and Marla Behler, member of the leadership team and coordinator of the Putnam Child Advocacy Center. They handed each a BOCES certificate of appreciation and a Warr;ors t-shirt.
 
The Warr;ors’ work is impacting students even in other districts.
 
“These t-shirts were printed by students at BOCES’s Tech Center,” said Dr. Andrew J. Ecker, coordinator of BOCES Guidance and Child Study Center, who also attended the ceremony. “It provided students and staff with an opportunity to connect and discuss mental health promotion for all.”
 
 “The students are on the front line, not us—although we think we are,” said Smith afterwards. “We’d be doing them a disservice if we didn’t train them to deal with mental health issues.”