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Mt. Blue educators organizing mental health awareness events this week

FARMINGTON - Students and staff in Regional School District 9 are recognizing Mental Health Month by dedicating this entire week to raising awareness of the difficulties faced by those struggling with mental health issues.

"Out object is to get people talking about mental illness and to bring the subject out into the open," Mt. Blue High School social worker Corey Walmer said.

Each day has been given a different theme to go along with activities for the students: Resilience, Be a Good Friend, Random Acts of Kindness, Take Care of Yourself and Mindfulness, followed by a capstone theme of Exercise Your Body on Saturday. Activities include things such as handing out flowers to remind students to "stop and smell the flowers" and giving thank you cards to encourage gratefulness. A resource fair will be held on Thursday and Friday with 12 different local agencies providing information to students. The week will end with a Free Community Walkathon on Saturday to bring awareness to the day's theme of Exercise Your Body.

Agencies will again be providing information at Saturday's walk. There will also be Gifford's ice cream, music and giveaways including a free t-shirt to the first 250 participants. The event begins at 9 a.m. at the MBHS track and lasts until 11 a.m., rain or shine.

This is the first year the event has taken place, but organizers anticipate it reoccurring annually from now on. Students and staff members are encouraged to wear the bright green Mental Health Awareness Week t-shirts throughout the week, printed and donated by the Foster Career and Technical Education Center.

"This has been a great collaborative event," Walmer said. "The issue of mental health often flies under the radar. As a public school we are equipped with a crisis team and a Suicide Prevention Committee, but how comfortable are people talking about it?"

One effort to bring more dialogue to the subject was created by students in the Day Treatment Program at MBHS. The students came up with the idea to conduct a survey, to hopefully get more information on what their peers are struggling with and who they feel most comfortable going to for help.

"A lot of students feel the most comfortable going to their teachers. Depending on the results of the survey, we might want to beef up the training for teachers to deal with these issues," Walmer said.

The awareness is not just concentrated at the high school level. Elementary schools across the district are bringing light to the subject for younger students as part of the proactive plan.

Mallett School social worker Laurie Guay is one of the head organizers of the week's events. She presented to students at Cape Cod Hill School, giving them three basic tools to battle mental illness. She spoke with the students about what mental illness is and things that we can do immediately to help feel better.

"I talked to them about three things. We talked about being kind, laughing and feeling grateful. It is amazing to me how receptive kids are to the idea of positive mental health and how eager they are to learn more," Guay said.

At the end of the presentation she handed out clown noses to all the students, to encourage laughter and positive feelings.

"Many students and staff have struggled with losing friends to suicide. It has become a personal investment for us all to figure out how we can be more proactive instead of reactive," Walmer said.

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2 Responses »

  1. This is so important and I am so happy that RSD 9 is raising awareness on the importance of mental health and the importance of starting this education process at a young age and then all the way up through the adolescent years.

  2. Thanks to all who came. It was a good time and very informative. Thanks to all who made this possible too. Great short to the point speech Tom, enjoyed it.