New group leads the conversation

Students Danielle Broege, Varun Gullapalli, Isabella Moran, Cheryl Jenkins, and Elle Doninger have created a new group called Mental Means More, or M3, to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. Mental health is something that Mental Means More wants to destigmatize.

“It’s what makes us tick,” said athletic director Tina Woolard. “Everything we do involves brain activity, and our mental health impacts our brain activity.”

Mental health is always something that’s important because everyone is constantly using their brains, and their feelings can impact how they think.

“Our thoughts impact our feelings which impact our actions,” said prevention and wellness coordinator Jenny Andersen. “Bad thoughts mean bad actions. Mental health is a foundation for our lives.”

Tina Woolard, Jenny Andersen, and athletic trainer Caitlin Bender helped the students create the vision they wished for. They are all a part of the Mental Means More group, and they are trying to raise awareness about mental health. Some of the ways they are trying to spread awareness are things they are doing around the school.

The students put sticky notes on the cafeteria walls that spell “Mental Health Matters.” M3 is trying to talk about mental health more because the more they talk about it, the more other people will feel comfortable talking about it in public.

“I myself deal with mental health, and it has always been a passion to spread awareness because I thought that I was alone, when really I wasn’t,” Doninger said. “But I didn’t have someone telling me that or letting me know, so I don’t want people to feel the same way I did. I know that sounds cliché, but I just want people to know they’re not alone.”

Many people who struggle with mental health often feel that they are alone and that no one will understand what they’re going through.

“Our goal is to provide a safe space for the student body,” Gullapalli said. “We want to destigmatize the concept of mental health and provide an avenue for students to share their feelings.”

Mental Means More is all about change, but even they know that change doesn’t happen overnight.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say anything is better yet,” Gullapalli said. “The goal of our group is more to start the conversation and raise awareness. That is what we are trying to do. Mental health isn’t necessarily going to get better, and it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Our goal is to talk about it and get people to feel better by sharing their experiences and how they’re feeling.”

Mental health is really important and one of the keys to being happy and successful.

“Mental health is everything,” Moran said. “If I am not in it to win it that day. If my head isn’t in my favor, I really can’t do much. Think about it. You have to spend the most time with yourself, right? So make it fun. Be a good friend to yourself. Mental health is taking care of you. You’re just a brain in a skeleton. It’s silly, but it’s worth it.”

Mental health affects everyone, and not just some people.

“I believe it will affect everyone,” Doninger said. “Mental health is very common in teens today, whether it be stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar, etcetera, but it doesn’t just affect those who are dealing with mental health, but also those who have friends, or family dealing with mental health. We want bystanders to know what to do and say, so that they can be supportive in an appropriate way, all about learning experience.”

Many students really appreciate the effort that this group has put in to make a difference in the lives of their peers.

“For the students and faculty at Grayslake North, I think many have been positively affected by what me and my group have done to spread awareness for mental health,” Broege said. “Many students have come up to me, especially after our speech on the football field during the football game, and told me how much it meant to them that we were doing what we were doing.”

The ideas that went into place like the posters, the football helmet stickers, the sticky note wall, and the speech were all created during brainstorming sessions between the M3 members.

“We came up with a lot of our ideas by just sitting together and talking,” Broege said. “We wanted ways to get more people involved, and we didn’t think that just doing simple things would make a true impact, so we talked during the football game and we talked over announcements, and we also made videos that we sent to students through email.”

Talking to a counselor, dean, therapist, family, or friends are all great ways to start the conversation and help everyone feel better.

“Hopefully it allowed for some people to realize there are others in this world who are open to listening and talking about our lives,” Jenkins said. “Finding a comfortable person to confide in is just as important as knowing you need to confide in someone. So through M3 I hope that someone out there started the conversation and got vulnerable with others, saw a therapist and accepted themselves a little bit more.”

M3 wanted to make a difference, even if that difference was only in one person’s life, then they were successful.

“I personally wanted to make this group to help a younger me,” Moran said. “We’re not made to save everyone, but if we can help one person, even if it’s just ourself, then it will have been worth it. I want to make sure everyone knows they have the right to be healthy, inside and out. We spend the most time with ourselves whether we like it or not so we might as well start practicing kindness.”

Mental Means More believes that everyone could use some help. Just talking out your issues can be a huge positive.

“I personally believe that every single human in this world at some point deals with mental obstacles,” Jenkins said. “Whether it is excess stress before finals, consistent friend problems or anything else that is weighing you constantly we all deal with it. One of our biggest points in M3 is that every person in this world should see a therapist or talk to someone about things they keep inside.”

If you would like to get involved in any way, reach out. If you need, help contact the school’s social worker.