Rival schools drawn to FHS Squad’s Hope & Health Fair

  • Student director Turner Matthews of Shoreline Church, seated, represented the church during the May 9 Hope & Health Fair, along with church members, standing from left, Ocean Edwards, Carly Akins and brothers, Will and Banks Duncan. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

  • Emma Helton of FHS Future Farmers of America Club holds Brownie the bunny. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

  • Hope Squad members Kate Bruce, left, and Molly DeFranco helped welcome guests. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

  • Star Starks from Girl Talk Inc. manned one of about a dozen booths in the Farragut High School gymnasium. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

Farragut High School’s Hope Squad hosted its first Hope and Health Fair Monday, May 9, an event drawing students and community members from Farragut, Hardin Valley and Bearden.

“We wanted to bring the whole community together,” said FHS Hope Squad president Laura Gilliard, who noted the event was held the week following “Hope Week,” which promoted a variety of mental health options and ideas.

“We are all doing what we can to be there for each other and show others how to respond when their friends or peers are in need.”

About a dozen local organizations and agencies set up booths at the fair, including Shoreline Church, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Metro Drug Coalition, University of Tennessee Center for Financial Wellness and FHS’s Future Farmers of America.

A student and mental health expert panel, consisting of Hope Squad members Kate Ford and Howie Sentell, along with Cristina Moorehead of Insightful Journey Therapy and Caitlyn Ensley, of Mental Health Associates of East Tennessee, took questions from moderator Emily Hager, a Farragut High School alumna who now works with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

Ensley noted the prevalence of anxiety among teenagers.

“It is so common,” she said. “A lot of times, people might see it as a ‘good thing,’ or a ‘personality trait,’ but it can be a cause of significant distress.”

Moorehead said a variety of resources can help both parents and teens to address issues, long before needing to seek professional help. “But by the time it comes to us, sometimes situations are really far gone, so it’s really good to use the resources available to help teens be able to talk about what they are facing,” she said.

“Parents also need to know it is not their fault if their kids don’t initially come to them,” Ford said.

“At the end of the day, parents can just show they are there and be willing to engage,” Moorehead added. “Students can be so hard on themselves. I don’t think parents realize how much pressure students put on themselves.”

The group also discussed effective strategies for mental health wellness. Sentell said being outdoors is a great stress reliever for him, while Ford said spending time with friends and not focusing on depression is sometimes helpful.

“Sometimes it’s just good to find a good distraction and space to breathe,” Ensley said.

“It really important of find something that works for you,” Moorehead added.

Several breakout sessions included an Art Mindfulness Project, self-defense moves demonstrated by Tiger-Rock Martial Arts, a Horticulture Mindfulness Experience and a session on Youth Mental Health Myths and Facts.