Springdale Jr. – SR. High school students learn the importance of mental health from the “Listening” Foundation, Lucy

Jordan Corcoran was relieved for the first time in her life after hearing the news.

When she was 19, she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. After years of suffering with mental illness, she was able to take her first step in seeking help.

“Ask for help is not a weakness. It doesn’t mean you failed,” she said.

Corcoran was sharing her story Wednesday morning in front of 175 students in 11th and 12th grades at Springdale Junior-Senior High School. She gave a series of presentations throughout the week to students in grades five and up.

The interactive presentation gave students the opportunity to learn more about mental health issues and how to help those who are struggling. My presentation included discussions about bullying; coping techniques negative words used to describe people with mental illness; and an activity called Crossing the Line, where students step forward if Corcoran makes a general statement that resonates with them.

She presented the program at several schools in the Pittsburgh area, including North Hills High School, her alma mater. This was the first time she had taken her to the Allegheny Valley School District.

“It’s okay if you don’t relate to my story. It’s not for everyone, but the one thing we can all agree on is that we’ve experienced it at some point in our lives.”

Her diagnosis shaped Corcoran’s path to creating the “Listen, Lucy” platform in 2013. The idea began as an anonymous online outlet for people to write and share their own stories of dealing with mental illness. As technology has evolved, Corcoran has worked to make its platform an online and in-person presence.

A year later, Corcoran began traveling across the country to tell her story and help provide resources for students in schools. Her work extends to providing workshops for district faculty, parents and company employees. She has written three books focusing on mental health. She recently announced her fourth book, a children’s book, called “Little Lucy Bullies” coming out on September 12.

“These issues are more prevalent now than ever,” she said. “Often, children are not validated in how they feel. Sometimes that validation is what they need to take the first step.”

Danielle Britton, an Allegheny Valley School District social worker, arranged the presentation after seeing social media posts of Corcoran speaking in other school districts prior to the pandemic. After things settled down and the school district returned to in-person classes, Britton spoke with Corcoran about talking to the Allegheny Valley students.

Britton said the line-crossing activity showed her there were students she never knew were struggling.

“It also proves why it’s important to have a conversation like this for those who either realize or don’t realize they need help,” she said.

Becky Dyer, a high school guidance counselor, said there has been an increase in social anxiety since returning to school during the pandemic.

She and Britton have made themselves more visible and available for students to talk, whether in a group setting or in their offices for lunch together.

Dyer said the students have been quarantined for some time, so returning in a group environment raises even more concern.

“Sometimes, they’ll go after each other once they know someone else is going through it too,” she said.

Corcoran said it’s been a privilege to help normalize the stigma surrounding mental health and help those who are struggling. Its focus has recently shifted to providing keep-up technologies that are free and accessible to attendees.

“I had a couple of students stay behind and they told me they felt understood for the first time in a long time,” she said. “Things didn’t feel normal until they had a conversation with me. This is the coolest thing in the world for you to do that.”

Tanesha Thomas is a staff writer for the Tribune Review. You can contact Tanisha via email at thomas@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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