March 8, 2019 - Students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Robert E. Lee High School are positively impacting their campuses by taking the lead in addressing mental health and wellness among young people.
Douglas Anderson senior, Chloe Cuff, said she was inspired to start the club DA for Change after attending the district’s annual student mental health conference.
In an essay written about the new club, she describes the need she felt to finally get up and do something about mental health.
“I could easily see how much it was affecting the world around me,” said Cuff.
Since starting DA for Change with her guidance counselor, Kathy Anderson, nearly 70 of her classmates have rallied around her and the movement toward a more mentally fit campus. The group’s mission is centered around increasing mental health and literacy among students and helping students become leaders and change agents.
Throughout the year, students have spearheaded several initiatives. This includes creating a Positivity Wall with a series of hand-written inspirational quotes and messages; creating “Hello, my name is…” stickers for the student body during "Hello Week" to promote the idea that no student should be lonely; and passing out non-violence pledges among their classmates to sign and commit to a life of nonviolence.
Most recently, the students created a Stress-free Mindfulness Retreat in April. The retreat consisted of a week-long series of events to reduce student stress, including meditation in the morning and yoga at lunch.
Cuff said she wants to leave a legacy that will inspire young people everywhere.
“Most of our members are seniors and we want to see the younger generation carry it on,” said Cuff. “I want to leave behind the drive. I want to see it grow exponentially and to other schools.”
Like Cuff, Lee High School student, Kayla Barnwell, was also inspired to create a mental wellness initiative on her campus. Her initiative is called Project H.E.R.O.
Project H.E.R.O. is designed to bring awareness to students and their families about mental health services available throughout the Jacksonville community. Barnwell told Team Duval News she wants to lead in destigmatizing the act of seeking help for mental health.
“A lot of people are dealing with mental health issues,” said Barnwell. “This could be them. They need to know that, it’s not just in school, but there’s an entire community.”
Barnwell stressed the importance of knowing the resources available within the community to get help.
“I didn’t know all schools have a full-time therapist,” said Barnwell. “You need to know stuff like that in case you’re down and needing help.”
On Thursday, May 9, Team Duval is encouraging everyone to wear green in support of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Visit our website for more information about mental health resources.