On the 18th and 19th of July, over 80 Form V students from Peruvian LAHC schools participated in the 2020 student-led LAHC Student Conference on the topic of Mental Health. It was a reflective and empowering weekend for students, who could share and develop their thoughts and ideas in wholesome conversations and activities. The representatives came up with a different aim for each of the conference days: day 1’s objective was to achieve confidence from the students and successfully get them to challenge the stigma of mental health in their community, and day 2’s objective was to encourage the taking of action by coming up with plausible solutions and proposals. This was achieved once students acknowledged their current situation: teenagers going through the adversities of a global pandemic.
Surprisingly enough, the virtual atmosphere positively impacted the conference’s path; it paved many different approaches for each of the activities planned. For instance, the representatives used the Zoom’s main room to manage larger, more general sessions, yet also, had the ability to create breakout rooms - a space where smaller groups could have private sessions. In the main group sessions, participants had the freedom to express themselves amongst their peers, as everyone made sure to create a safe, friendly environment with their positive comments. Moreover, the students really enjoyed some of the activities organized, including a Kahoot quiz, an anonymous fill in questionnaire, and a drama activity. These helped them grasp a deeper understanding on the importance of the topic, and effectively directed them to take initiatives to improve their school’s approach towards mental health.
The experience was further enriched by two guest speakers who developed interactive and entertaining presentations. They thoughtfully established digital interactions with the students using the chat platform and short activities. On the first day, psychologist and actor, Javier Echevarría, delighted everybody with an introductory display on how to “embrace emotions”, choosing to tackle the issue through a different path. On the second day, co-founder of Mindfulness Peru, Ana Maria Loret de Mola, expressed the beginnings of the Mindfulness practice by teaching everyone to calmly ground themselves to Earth.
Overall, the conference provided the students, representatives, and teachers with imaginative and original perspectives on mental health. We are sure that all of the solutions devised by the students will give way to a more accepting and understanding school management towards mental health, and most significantly, teach us the importance of accepting and loving ourselves.