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Seeking a focus on mental health

Cathy Turner spearheads effort to arrange assembly for LOHS students


REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Sandi Serling of Activating Happy (left) and school psychologist Cathy Turner are collaborating on a mental health assembly for high school students.When Cathy Turner heard that Activating Happy was holding a conference in Lake Oswego, she said she knew she had to go.

Turner is the psychologist for both Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools, and she says she’s interested in anything that can help her counsel local students. That’s why she led an effort to bring a mental health assembly for students and staff to LOHS on March 31.

At the sold-out Activating Happy event at the Lakewoood Center for the Arts last October, Turner saw attendees practically rolling in the aisles, throwing beach balls thoughtfully provided by event organizer Sandi Serling, eating chocolate bars and knocking balloons around.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. A lineup of outstanding speakers, including popular “brain coach” and author Brad Pendergraft, told the crowd how to “rewire” their brains and tap the power of happiness that was within them.

“I’m always interested in that kind of conference because of my background,” Turner said. “I already knew about some of the things they talked about.”

But Turner was impressed with the whole happy package presented by Activating Happy, the organization Serling founded, and she decided to try the same approach for local high schoolers.

“These days, students are stressed doing all of the things they have to do,” Turner said. “They need mental healing and coping strategies. We don’t specifically address this in high school, and I’m excited about the possibility of having an event that will promote mental health.

“How do you access your own happiness? You can’t buy it. You can’t take a pill for it. Happiness is something you have to develop yourself.”

To help students do that, she has planned the assembly at LOHS and is open to holding one at Lakeridge too. She believes an assembly could make the general high school community aware of the issue of mental health, and that it could offer hope to students with issues of depression, anxiety and even hurting themselves.

It is an issue Turner believes is just as crucial for high school students as academics.

As a psychologist who is especially directed to help special education students, Turner says she feels she is unable to do nearly enough to help the large number of students with mental health concerns.

“I love connecting with kids and interacting with them to get their perspectives and establishing relationships with them,” Turner said. “I can have some influence on their lives, which means a lot to me. But I’m disappointed that I don’t have enough time because of all my requirements. Kids are hit all the time by the media now. They get up-to-the-minute news on the latest school shooting. The news is just constant. I feel I can’t do enough to help kids deal with that.”

To help promote her goal of having an assembly, Turner went to the perfect person — Serling, who organized the Activating Happy conference, making it not only a big success but a milestone on bettering mental health in the Lake Oswego community. Serling did not originally consider how much Activating Happy could help teenagers, but she said she now thinks Turner’s idea is wonderful.

“Sandi is my guardian angel,” Turner said.

And to say she is gung ho about a mental health assembly for high school students is putting it mildly.

“I am so excited about Cathy wanting to spread Activating Happy to her students,” Serling said. “What I love about her is she is such an informative, loving, caring person. She is offering something the kids need so much. The media makes it so difficult for teens, and just facing life for them can be an everyday struggle. Teens need strategies they can apply when life becomes too stressful.”

Turner said she found the reasons for holding an assembly were too powerful to resist.

“The suicide rates among college students are the highest they’ve ever been,” Turner said. “Too often they drop out, go on drugs or develop a mental health disorder. I would like an assembly on mental health to be the beginning of a process. Giving our kids better mental health is something we need to carry forward.”

For more about Activating Happy, go to activatinghappy.com.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..