Merrill High School students take steps to end the stigma of mental illness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - A group of students at Merrill High School is bringing awareness to mental health while trying to end the stigma surrounding it.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a group of students is planning activities the week of May 2-7 to highlight its importance.

“We believe that in a society where things are changing, the conversation around mental health needs to change as well,” Merrill High School Raise Your Voice Club Social Media Chairman Nicole Zoellner said.

Talking about mental health is often hard to initiate and students at Merrill High School hope to fix that problem. They’re planning a mental health awareness walk on Sunday, May 2 as their main event.

“From someone who my father passed away when I was little and like having mental health affect my life, it means a lot that we’re putting on this walk for awareness and that we’re walking to end the stigma,” Zoellner said.

The walk is being organized by the Raise Your Voice Club, which is a group of students put on by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) advocating for mental health awareness.

“The whole idea behind the walk is to just kind of have the conversation and open up that mental illness is real and that people struggle with it and so it’s a really big way to be able to just acknowledge that,” Merrill High School Counselor Allie Libby said.

The walk starts at Kitchenette Park in Merrill. It costs $20 for adults and $10 for children to participate. All proceeds go towards NAMI and Tyler’s Playground, which is a park named in honor of a Merrill child who died by suicide.

As of Monday night, 130 participants are registered for the walk.

“Mental health awareness is really important, so having that common language with peers and people living in the community is our main goal,” Raise Your Voice Club President Drew Polak said.

The group also plans to bring awareness during school that week with various activities such as trivia, painting rocks, painting windows, and teacher appreciation.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health, so if you have a healthy body, then you should really work on your mental health as well,” Zachary Kriegel of the Raise Your Voice Club said.

The main goal is to get young people to understand mental health awareness. Libby said many teens go to their peers for mental health help rather than an adult.

“By having young people understand what the resources and that it’s ok to not be ok and we can have these conversations, they can support each other better,” UW-Madison Extension Educator Debbie Moellendorf, who helps with the club said.

The walk begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, participants can choose to walk one mile or two and a half miles. A link to register can be found here.

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