Schools join forces to raise awareness for mental health

Mackenzie George and Mckenzie Connell

For senior Ayana Gray, timing was everything when HOSA was treated to a guest speaker on mental health a few months ago. Soon after, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey results were released to CMR students, spurring conversation about ongoing physical and mental health issues surrounding the school.

“[The speaker shared] what we can do to help the community access more physical and mental health care,” Gray explained. “So that inspired Morgan [Duncan] and [me] to start the project.”

CMR students’ responses in areas of “risky behavior” strayed above the state average in many categories of the YRBS survey, such as substance use, unprotected sexual activity, and depression. Gray and Duncan partnered with Alliance for Youth to raise awareness as well as funds to combat these growing issues.

“At first we wanted to just introduce the project to the student body and did that by putting up the lime green streamers and then handing out the [Let’s Talk] mints,” Gray said. “The project is basically trying to bring support and awareness to mental health issues that occur frequently in the high schools, both CMR and Great Falls High.”

Both sides of the river — usually separated by sports rivalries — joined forces for this project. CMR’s HOSA and student government partnered with Great Falls High’s Key Club. The crosstown basketball game, Gray said, will be the conclusion of the project. She hopes students and staff will pack the fieldhouse in lime green and blue, the colors of the T-shirts that are being sold at both schools for $8.

“Buying T-shirts and sporting the colors at the game just to show support [is one big thing you can do],” she said. “We want all the students from both high schools to…just flood the whole area with the different colors.”

Students can also download the Let’s Talk app, a vehicle for support and awareness from Alliance for Youth.

“Their app has resources for what you can do if you know a friend that may be suffering or if you may be suffering — just more information on the topics in general,” Gray said. “The app is just a great resource for everyone — parents, students, teachers — to download.”

Gray hopes for as much student involvement as possible, and in the wake of the YRBS results, it may not be difficult to find.

“With the YRBS survey just coming out and everyone seeing the surprising problems that happen at CMR, [it] just made it even better to do this project at this time, so it all worked out really well,” Gray said.