2020 Amazing Kids - Newberg Graphic
School: St. Paul High School
Hometown: Newberg, Or
Why he's Amazing: Taylor opened up a community discussion and brought attention to mental health issues affecting young people.
PROUDLY SPONSORED BY:
SPEAKING OUT ON MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
In recent years, the subject of mental health has come to the forefront for students in the Newberg School District — particularly at Newberg High School where mental health and suicide prevention are an important focus.
Last winter a student from nearby St. Paul High School continued that conversation in his hometown.
Taylor Faber, now a graduate from SPHS, organized a town hall on mental health for his senior project. The event, called “Wipe Out the Stigma,” brought in community leaders from St. Paul, Newberg and beyond to provide an open and honest discussion about mental health.
“I had to go to the hospital for something that happened to me, so my goal for my senior project (was) to get awareness out there about mental health,” Faber says. “People need to know and have a better understanding of what goes on with mental health.”
Speakers at the event included a local police officer, psychiatrist, therapist and other voices, along with young people and their families who have faced mental health challenges themselves. Faber recruited the speakers by sending a letter to various local entities with the hope of drawing in a variety of perspectives. The response was strong and the event should provide plenty of discussion, he says.
“I’ve heard a lot of people my age talk about this,” Faber says. “I asked my mom about what it was like when she was growing up and she said back then people were afraid to talk about it. More people are more aware now and there isn’t as much of a stigma.”
Faber was a football, basketball and baseball player at SPHS. Mental health, he says, is a big factor for an athlete and can impact performance and one’s life outside of the sport. His own struggles brought him to a realization that more needs to be said about this subject in his community.
Faber chalks up his ability to cope with mental health challenges to his family, but also teachers who were accommodating and helpful whenever he was struggling.
The audience in a packed gymnasium at Faber’s town hall in February provided a plentiful array of questions: What causes teen mental illness and why is teen mental health important? Where did the mental health stigma come from? What can you do as friends and family to support someone with mental illness issues? Who can you approach to get help for mental illness? What can people do to improve their own mental health?
Many were answered in detail by Faber’s guests, who included mental health professionals, Woodburn Police officer Robert Prinslow, SPHS social studies teacher Dan Sullivan and Newberg mother Leslie Brittell and her daughter, Abby, who spoke about the challenges in managing bipolar disorders. One of the mental-health workers, Sarah Zecchi of the Marion-Polk chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), joined Abby Brittell in describing personal struggles, such as frequent ups and downs, wreaked by bipolar 1 disorder.
The other professionals were psychiatrist Emina Bajrovic from West Linn’s Mind Matters Child & Family Psychiatry and clinician Laura Avery-Valentine, a mental health professional from Marion County Health and Human Services’ Early Assessment & Support Alliance.
The overarching lessons that emerged were that mental and emotional stresses can happen to anyone; they should not elicit shame; isolation exacerbates the conditions; it is vital to face mental health issues head on and get help; if you know someone who appears to be struggling with such issues, help them get help.
Faber’s passion for the issue of mental health won’t stop and he plans to study social work in college.
“What motivated me to do this town hall was my family and also me having gone to the hospital for something with my mental health,” he says. “It influenced me to do this. A lot of people helped me out with this and I couldn’t have done it without them — it’s a caring community that is open about mental health as an issue.”