The Mental Health Association Club at Bronx Science

Are you stressed? No worries, there is a Mental Health club in Bronx Science!


Tiankuo Zhang

Grace Lin and Siddrual Moonthaha hold up a Mental Health Association poster to advertise for new recruits at the Bronx Science Club Fair.

Two years ago, an unread e-mail popped out in the sea of other unread e-mails on a Wednesday afternoon. With my bed unmade, and bags under my eyes, I was searching for an interesting club to join during the Coronavirus pandemic. The previous year, I had added my e-mail address to multitudes of unique club e-mail lists, but I had yet to attend any meetings. Lethargically, I dragged myself out of  bed, ultimately making my decision on the spot. I would join the Mental Health Association. With my pitiful sleep schedule and my grades slowly dropping, I knew that it was time for a change. With my mental health down the drain, what better use of my time is there to join a club focused on improving your mental health, right? Blinking my eyes quickly, strengthening my resolve to try something new, I clicked on the meeting link and joined the Zoom call. 

At Bronx Science, the highly regarded school of endless possibilities, there are many opportunities available inside the school’s walls: a variety of courses, school events, extracurriculars, and more. Nevertheless, this spotlight will be on one specific extracurricular, the Mental Health Association (MHA).

Many unique and interesting clubs had made their mark at  Bronx Science. However, some clubs remain relatively unknown, with some students unaware of their potential. MHA is just one of these many clubs focused on bringing students a sanctum. Every Wednesday at 3:40 p.m., students come together to talk about mental health in room 331. MHA is a safe space for students to discuss their problems while bathing in the joys of tea time alongside other club activities.

The Importance of Mental Health

Mental health has become a more prevalent issue these past few years, with the pandemic  making matters worse. While mental health has always been important, stigmas around the issue prevent many from speaking out and getting the help they need. 

The mental health community faces a variety of problems daily. Certain people, mainly older generations, have a lack of understanding about how exactly mental illnesses work, leading to many individuals hiding their mental health problems or refusing to discuss them for fear of backlash. Yet, by avoiding these problems, they will only get worse, often leading to greater problems down the road. 

Although people tend to separate mental health from physical and social health, these areas are clearly intertwined. The way we feel, think and behave impacts our overall emotions, behavior, and quality of life. While not everyone deals with mental illness, everyone has their fair share of bad days. “Especially in a school where many students feel pressured to excel and not let any time go to waste like Bronx Science, it is imperative that people be aware of the importance of mental health and how it affects both yourself and the people around you. I think the community as a whole would benefit if more people were conscious of their mental health and how they might take steps to maintain or improve it,” said Katrina Tablang ’23.

That is why people going through a hard time need a community where people band together and talk about their struggles. People do not want to feel alone in this struggle; they want relatability. This can be achieved by openly talking about mental health, normalizing the process of getting help, and reducing stigma. MHA works to accomplish all these goals for students at Bronx Science.

The Mental Health Association (MHA)

‘Roses and thorns’ has been a long-standing tradition in MHA. This tradition allows each member to introduce themselves, starting with their name, pronouns, ‘roses, and thorns,’ along with answering a question on the board. During ‘roses and thorns,’ members talk about a good thing that has happened to them so far (a rose) and a not-so-good thing that happened (a thorn) in the past week. By talking about these events, members are able to reflect on the positives in a situation while also acknowledging the bad things happening in their lives.

Before the meeting moves further, members are allowed to make a variety of tea from Max Chomet, the current faculty advisor of the club. Mr. Chomet has a collection of tea, and he often recommends and brings new tea for the club to try. Sometimes, the board members chip in, adding to this diverse collection. Some interesting teas I have tasted in the club include lavender earl gray, jasmine, and matcha. Tasting these new teas got me interested in the potential health benefits of tea, leading to my small collection of diverse tea. Many experts have suggested that tea calms the mind, so drinking tea in an MHA meeting is perfect for mental health.

The president, Tasmia Afrin ’23, and vice president, Siddratul Moonthaha ’23, often start the meetings with a presentation on specific mental health topics that they wish to bring awareness to. Some of these topics include stress, social anxiety, masking, PTSD, eating disorders, and ADHD. As they present, they slowly bring other club members into their presentation, asking them about their struggles. This atmosphere gives off a very earnest and warm vibe, where it seems that board members care deeply about the topics they are discussing, as well as those of other members. Everyone shares their personal experiences and learns from each other. Students in Bronx Science don’t tend to talk much about their mental health struggles, so it is nice to see a club offer a space for these discussions. 

Although most of the club activities are discussion-oriented and center around spreading awareness, MHA also offers other activities. The board sometimes plays movies that focus on mental illnesses and videos such as Ted Talks. Sometimes, there is even art therapy and meditation involved, giving members a way to relax without speaking. Khado Tsephel ’23 said, “The board members put in a lot of effort in ensuring that the meeting stays both fun and informational. During some meetings, we just chill which is helpful during stressful times like the college application process.”

Being a relatively small club, with only a few members, everyone in the club interacts with each other in some way, all while talking about their problems openly. As the board members talk abundantly about their struggles, it allows many others to open up. Even Mr. Chomet, sitting nearby, engages and listens to the discussions that happen.

The Board and Advisor 

Everyone has their struggles, including the board and advisor. While they try their hardest despite their mental health struggles, they hope that MHA will be able to help students with these issues. 

In an interview, Mr. Chomet commented on his struggles with mental health. He said “I have ADHD, and I did not know until I was 23-24. I have internalized for most of my life that I was a smart lazy person, not that my brain works differently. Once I learned that about myself, I was able to develop strategies and be kinder to myself. As a teacher, I got an eye out for students that remind me of myself. You learn to hide the things that are not socially acceptable, and if you end with a high grade, oftentimes no one would notice.” In a world where people hide their mental health struggles in fear of inequity, it is hard to find a place to talk openly about things. Mental health issues are not something to be dealt with alone. You need a community. 

Afrin and Moonthaha also shared information about their mental health struggles. “Throughout my life, I never talked about the struggles and discrimination I faced because of my mental illnesses. Life was much easier when I put up a facade of being the perfect student and daughter through my humor, kind personality, and surrounding myself with many friends. Putting up this facade for years protected me from the backlash I would face due to the stigma and ignorance that surrounds mental illnesses and mental health in general in our world” said Afrin. 

Moonthaha also mentioned her struggles with mental health, stating, “My social anxiety; as a young child, I did not understand that I was not just shy or had no desire to make friends — I was going through a mental health problem that was difficult to address. Speaking about mental health was considered “taboo” in my community and still is in some sense, but that prevented me from asking adults for help or at least having an understanding as to why I felt the way I did.” Mental health issues are not meant to be hidden away; instead, they are meant to be talked about. Yet, many people today believe that the safest option is to pretend, to mask away their problems. This prevents people from getting help, from being understood and validated, and prevents many from being happy. 

The MHA Mission

Now, MHA is working towards change. The club is carrying out its plan on hosting a Town Hall with the school administration, student leaders, and MHA Board. There is also an event lined up with the Podcast Club, where MHA board members can discuss mental health with different subtopics they have researched. Afrin has also gotten an offer to host a Ted Talk for her to talk about mental health. With so many things going on, the focus is on growing the club’s influence and gaining more members. Right now, the club is pretty small, yet, everyone that goes to the club comes out with a new perspective.

MHA does not just make an impact on the members that come and stay, but the board members and advisor that dedicate themselves to the betterment of their club. Their dedication proves that by being in a community where everyone’s perspective can be heard, students can feel better about themselves and emerge happier, healthier people.

“Especially in a school where many students feel pressured to excel and not let any time go to waste like Bronx Science, it is imperative that people be aware of the importance of mental health and how it affects both yourself and the people around you. I think the community as a whole would benefit if more people were conscious of their mental health and how they might take steps to maintain or improve it,” said Katrina Tablang ’23.