Lifeline promotes teen mental health

Julia Kuhn, bear facts features writer

Mental health issues affect high school students across the country, and approximately 66 percent of young people with mental health problems do not get the help they need, according to the Children’s Mental Health Statistics website.

Lifeline, a club at LZHS, wants to change the stigma with mental health issues by promoting mental health awareness. Started last year by 2012 graduate Megan Ewan, this year there have been changes in the club because Desirae Rowan, senior, is the new student leader of Lifeline and has transformed the club to include more students.

            “I am in charge of Lifeline this year, which is a continuation of Megan Ewan’s project and ideas from last year. The goal of the club is to promote mental health awareness and use positive reinforcements to make LZHS a better learning environment for all its students,” Rowan said. “[Ewan’s] big thing was making that video for the school. This year, we have developed more into a club and have a lot of events that we plan on doing.”

            Julie Rusniak, social worker and Lifeline co-sponsor, agrees the club has taken a new direction.

            “We are definitely doing more activities than last year,” Rusniak said. “Last year, Lifeline was more one person, and this year it is more of a group. I think this club is really important because it’s important kids know that there are resources to help them with mental health issues. It makes a difference when people know there’s someone there for them,”

            A primary focus for Lifeline includes a mental health awareness week in April.

            “Our mental health awareness week will happen April 15 to April 19, with different activities and announcements each day. The week will culminate with the walk on that Friday night. Some of these activities will include posting positive messages on post-its in the girls’ bathrooms, wearing t-shirts with inspirational quotes on them that each member will make individually, as well as having announcements raising awareness for different mental disorders,” Rowan said. “The biggest event being planned is a walk called ‘Out of the Darkness,’ which will raise awareness for mental health. This walk will take place at the high school at night when it is dark out, and the path will be lit by paper bags decorated by students in the school depicting struggles they have been through or accomplishments they have had.”

            In addition to the week in April, another club goal is to educate students about different mental health issues through announcements and a club bulletin board.

            “Each month we are planning to have announcements on a different mental health issue, as well as having a bulletin board including different topics depending on the month, along with hotlines as well,” Rusniak said.

            One mental health issue that is common in teens is despression. Approximately five percent of teens suffer from clinical depression, according to the Livestrong website.

“This club is important to me because so many kids at the high school suffer from various mental illnesses, mainly depression, and I want to show people that they aren’t alone in their struggles,” Rowan said.

Lifeline meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 7:15am in the Small Auditorium. All the activities the club does are based on the goal of helping students and spreading awareness for mental health issues.

            “High school is a difficult transition period for many people, and this club really helps promote a positive environment where people can realize similarities in their issues and can help find common solutions,” Rowan said. “I don’t want people to feel like outcasts for having depression or an eating disorder, etcetera, but to be able to come together and work on struggles together.”