Middle-schoolers raising mental health awarenessJanuary 02, 2019
Middle-schoolers raising mental health awareness
LEOMINSTER -- You might call them the ones taking up the charge.
Though only 13-years-old, Christine Evans and Gold Lee saw a need at their school and decided to be the ones to do something about it.
"We have a lot of friends that we know have mental health issues and I think there's a point in really all of our lives where we struggle. Even if we don't realize it," said Evans. "Kids are very unaware of what mental health is."
"Personally, I've had to deal with mental illness before. I've dealt with depression," said Lee. "I'm just starting to learn to go with it."
Sky View Middle School stopped offering health classes two years ago, and even when it was available, Evans and Lee said the curriculum on mental health education was very limited.
Looking to be proactive with the issue, they recently founded the United Way Youth Venture called Love Yourself, Find Yourself, which they hope will raise awareness of prevalent mental illnesses.
"I see a lot more anxiety than I have ever seen and I feel bad for them. It stresses me out because the kids are so anxious," said Sky View teacher Sharyn Tomasso, who coordinates the school's Youth Venture activities. "I would say it's the prevailing health issue with kids... The kids are opening up about it, but there's no forum for that."
As Tomasso explained, Sky View has guidance counselors that students can talk to, but not a setting in which students can all build a basic understanding of things like anxiety and depression.
They also don't have a designated place in which students can talk about their feelings with each other, which Love Yourself, Find Yourself hopes to address by forming a club that would work somewhat like a support group.
Lee and Evans hope their Youth Venture will help normalize mental illness in the community at-large, though they note its focus will begin with their peers.
"Before middle school, you feel like such a little kid, but now you're starting to grow up and realize reality," said Lee. "Sometimes it's tough and people don't know how to deal with it."
Jacob Vanhillo, a spokesman for the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, said mental health is becoming an increasingly popular topic that area students want to address through the Youth Venture program and that the biggest percentage of ventures launched in the last year were tied to mental health in some way.
"Health last year was definitely a very large subject and it was mostly split between mental health and cancer," he said. "We are seeing more and more of it every year."
Find Yourself, Love Yourself will be attending Sky View Middle School's Jan. 26 Winter Carnival to raise funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have a fundraising goal of $500.
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53
Read more: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/breakingnews/ci_32341932/middle-schoolers-raising-mental-health-awareness#ixzz5bTLPCIQN