By Theresa Knapp
What started out as an 8th grade civic action project at Millis Middle School has turned into a larger fundraiser to raise awareness for mental health.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” according to students Sophia White and Isabella Schaad who, along with classmate Alivia Gordon, worked on the project.
The original assignment was to find a real-world problem and create a plan to take action to solve the problem. The team thought about mental health, specifically related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, noting it has affected their peers in notable ways.
“We know a lot of people who have experienced mental health issues, and we just thought it was a really important issue, and people should really learn a little more about what’s happening,” said Schaad.
White agreed. “Everyone is dealing with something, no one is perfectly fine.”
As part of their plan, the team worked with a school guidance counselor who spoke to the 8th graders about mental health, including what happens physiologically to the brain when students get stressed out, which the team said was informative and helpful. They also contacted school officials and encouraged them to create a club “where kids can go if they feel like they need to talk to someone,” and contacted local and state government officials to raise awareness about mental health issues.
Another part of the team’s action plan was to create a GoFundMe account, where they say, “Being teenagers, we have seen the effects of mental health issues on our friends, family, and community. We are striving to help provide awareness, and a sense of security to those suffering from mental illness.”
As of press time, the team was more than halfway to its goal of $7,000 which will be donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
While researching their project, the team was surprised to learn that mental health issues are prevalent, and the cost of getting treatment is expensive.
Created by Sophia White as part of a civic action plan to raise awareness for mental health issues. Credit: Sophia White.
“I never knew that people had to pay to get treatment,” said White. “When we started the project, and we did our research, I thought ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money!’ For clinical depression, it would cost around $7,000 to be in the hospital for eight days.”
The girls say they have received so much positive feedback from friends, family, and the community – especially after their efforts were featured on Boston 25 News in early June – so they know the issue is important to a lot of people.
Even though school is out for the summer, and the girls will be freshmen next year, they say they will continue their efforts.
“I think we should stick with the project because it’s a really important thing, it’s not just a school project,” said Schaad.
“It’s a real problem and we just want to be a few of the people to advocate, to raise more public awareness about it,” said White.
Asked what they learned doing the project, White said, “I learned anyone can make a difference. If you believe enough in something, and you believe that it’s worth the work, then you can do anything.”
Schaad agreed. “We’re just eighth graders and we’ve made such a change already.”