Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017 – 3:02 PM
By Laura Coleman
When it comes to saving a life, there are few high school students who are as impactful as Beverly Hills High School senior Rebecca Meshkani. For the past two years, she has worked to bring mental health issues out of the shadows through the formation of her on-campus club, Embrace Your Beauty Mark.
In recognition of her work, the Westwood-based Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation has named Rebecca this year’s “Teen Hero.” She will receive the award on Monday at the 5th Annual Matt’s Foundation Golf Classic at the El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.
“She really cares. Whatever she can do for students, she does,” said Foundation Executive Director Candace Yoder.
The foundation was formed following the 2006 suicide of Yoder’s nephew Matthew, a seemingly happy and successful Brentwood High School senior who hid the pain from a break-up inside until it was too late.
Both Beverly Vista and El Rodeo have made use of the Foundation’s anti-bullying program to help curb a very real on-campus problem. BHHS has also worked with the foundation, bringing its “Send Silence Packing” program to the campus where a powerful installation of backpacks on the front lawn reminded students how tenuous the path to suicide can be.
Foder underscored how important “local heroes” are given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24.
“It’s people who are doing things in the community that could have potentially saved [my nephew’s] life if he were around,” she said. “As soon as we can change the culture on campus and let them know it’s okay to talk about mental health, that’s when we’re really able to prevent suicide.”
“The number one key for suicide prevention is definitely breaking the stigma of asking for help,” she added.
In collaboration with the foundation, this week Rebecca spearheaded the BHHS Stress Less Laugh More Campaign. Fully funded by the foundation, every day this week students have taken part during lunch in a variety of activities all geared to minimize stress, including yoga, meditation and even a photo booth.
Rebecca said she founded the mental health club to cultivate a stigma-free environment after experiencing her own struggles transitioning to high school.
“Going through middle school (at El Rodeo) and high school I realized that a lot of kids were suffering in silence,” she recalled of the dynamic period that included incredible stress from puberty, change in school and a heavy academic load. “Everyone was going through it, but everyone was suffering alone.”
She said about 15 to 20 students attend the club meetings every other Tuesday at lunch where they discuss a variety of mental health topics and stress management tools, as well as engage in healthful practices such as meditation.
“It’s a great reminder to care about yourself, to love yourself and to remind your peers to care about themselves,” said Rebecca, who is headed to Santa Monica College in the fall. “School is stressful and having a place where you can de-stress with other students is really beneficial.”