WESTMINSTER, Md. (WJZ) — During the pandemic, most Maryland high schools are shut down and with students in remote learning and isolation, many teens are struggling with their mental health now more than ever. It’s why one Carroll County high school became determined to make a difference.

At Winters Mill High, students from the peer advocacy program called Falcons of Strength started a club to spread positivity, hope and support and they lead the way in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.

“It was more feelings of isolation and then as the months went by, there was that feeling of numbness, you know, we’re never getting out of this, so what’s the point?” said Senior, Diana Flores. She knew if she was feeling these feelings, other students had to be feeling them too.

“It’s tough, we don’t get to see faces, we don’t get to hug anybody, we don’t get to have handshakes or high fives,” agreed Principal, Michael C. Brown. He said the separation has been tough on his staff too.

And it’s why Flores, along with her fellow members of a group called, Falcons of Strength, got to work.

The group is part of a national organization called Sources of Strength, working to combat bullying, suicide and substance abuse. But since the pandemic, Flores and her peers in Falcons of Strength built out the program to offer more support to students.

“We need to find some way to help people, if we don’t do anything about it, it’s gonna get way worse,” said Sophomore Lily Ketterman, another member of Falcons of Strength.

The group started providing messages of strength via social media and offering friendship to those struggling through phone calls or socially-distanced visits.

“I try visiting him once or twice a week and say, ‘Hey, what’s up man? what’s new? What do you need to tell me? What do you need to get off your plate?” said Falcons of Strength members, Quinn McIver, a Junior at Winters Mill.

Part of the program’s success, Principal Brown believes, is because the help is coming from student peers instead of adults.

“It’s really run by the students and that’s why I think it’s so powerful,” he told WJZ Tuesday, “we don’t want to miss not one person that is struggling with mental health, just because they didn’t feel comfortable talking to somebody.”

“You have to speak and advocate for mental health because if not, these children who are struggling are left alone,” added Flores.

To learn more about the national program – Sources of Strength – head to their website.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Annie Rose Ramos

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