TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls School District has already taken some additional steps this year to try and address the importance of mental health by introducing a Student and Family Assistance Program.
The goal of the program is to discuss any problems kids K through 12 may be facing in or out of school by offering them and their families free counseling sessions.
However, now students at Canyon Ridge High School have gone one step further and are hosting their own mental health awareness week that their classmates can participate in.
The district and staff have taken note of this and are proud to see these kids taking their own initiative and addressing mental health in ways they seem fit.
“It’s really neat to see 24 of our students really grab onto this opportunity," said Kasey Teske, the Principal of Canyon Ridge High School. "To get the word out on mental health awareness and to plan it and have all these activities to promote it.”
The Riverhawk Student Strong Committee is the organization spearheading this program. On Tuesday, the group of students conducted their second activity of the week, "Chalk in the Courtyard," where they could spread positive messages to fellow classmates by writing them on the pavement.
“Affirmations, encouraging words because this area gets a lot of foot traffic or it gets none at all so if you’re walking through this alone, you can read what you’re seeing and think about that," said Ella Oberg a Senior at Canyon Ridge who is student body president, and president of the Riverhawk Student Strong Committee. "If you’re walking through with a bunch of people, it will spark some conversations hopefully.”
Addressing mental health in students has always been this organization's primary focus. However, some students feel the need for this club this year has been amplified with the events of the past year and a half.
“It was very hard on a lot of people, and we saw a lot of cases where people just really couldn't find a reason to go on and they just really needed that support group," said Michael Gill, a member of the Riverhawk Student Strong Committee. "That's what we aim to do.”
There are other activities set throughout this week, on Wednesday students will be collecting donations for a local youth therapy organization, A Chance 4 Change. Friday there will be a panel between students and adults such as doctors, therapists, and even city council members to discuss issues students may face and available resources.
Perhaps the event most students are looking forward to is on Thursday, where students can sign a massive pledge poster.
“As every student walks by, they're going to sign their name on the paper, and they’ll get a yellow ribbon tied around their wrist," said Oberg. "So, by the end of the day, every student should have their yellow ribbon on their wrist and you’ll be able to walk through the halls and see that, oh that person signed the pledge, they’re committing to making this a better place for me and my mental health.”
For those involved in the program, they're hopeful that this approach of peers speaking to one another will have a greater impact, rather than hearing it from an authoritative figure.
“ I feel like some students when we get all these things from the administration and staff, they feel like they really aren't understanding what they're feeling," said Gill. "But coming from another peer or another student or their friends just helps them to know that they’re being understood, and we have the same troubles, and we can all get through it together.”
Although the administration hopes students appreciate and understand their efforts, they too see the value of students discussing issues with one another.
"They trust their friends," said Teske. "Hopefully they trust adults as well but sometimes it comes better from peer to peer."