‘Raise Your Voice’ club tackles the mental health stigma

Suicide is the second most common cause of death for young people in Wisconsin
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 4:42 PM CST
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - Suicide is the second most common cause of death for young people in Wisconsin. State data shows since 2013 the number of public high school students seriously considering taking their own life has only increased.

‘Raise Your Voice’ is a club growing in popularity among local school districts. The club’s goal is to tackle the stigma of talking about mental health.

Rhinelander just started their club in the last three weeks. Merrill is a veteran club and has over 100 student members. Students said it has had a huge impact on their school and personal lives.

”Raise Your Voice has made me a kinder person,” said Decilyn Clark, Merrill High School’s Raise Your Voice club president.

”I suffer with anxiety... and I just really found strength in the club and now I am okay talking about it,” said Laney Zuelsdorff, board member and social media coordinator for the Merrill ‘Raise Your Voice’ club.

Clark said the club has changed the dynamic of the school.

'Raise Your Voice' clubs' mental health matters shirts.
'Raise Your Voice' clubs' mental health matters shirts.(wsaw)

”Preparing students to tackle the stigma, take it out and make people comfortable talking about mental health,” said Clark.

Of the over 100 members, 92 are trained in suicide prevention through a training called QPR or ‘Question, Persuade, Respond.’

Once they complete the training they wear bandanas or tags on their backpacks.

”We put a bandana on our backpacks and it’s bright green so when a student sees that they are like ‘oh, I can talk to this person,” said Clark.

Though it might sound unrealistic to some, students said it actually works.

”I think that people do take it seriously, I’ve known of a few cases where people with backpack tags or bandanas and found help,” said Zuelsdorff.

Tori Brigham is a sophomore at Rhinelander high school. She said she’s looking to schools with more experienced clubs like Merrill for advice as she helps start the group at her school. This is Rhinelanders’ 3rd week and they already have 15 members. They just went through QPR training with current members.

”You’re closer with them, you’ve possibly gone to school with them since you started school so it’s just easier to connect,” said Brigham.

The youth development educator that coordinates the club for several schools new to the program said it’s more likely teens talk to a friend about their mental health.

”They listen to their peers more than adults. So when you have a peer telling you it’s okay to talk about what you are going through, that’s huge,” said Sharon Krause, youth development educator.

While the clubs are based at local schools, students said what they learn they’ll take beyond the halls.

”Wherever they go in life, they can recognize the signs of suicide and help people who need it,” said Clark.

Merrill’s ‘Raise Your Voice’ will have a walk on May 1st and everyone is welcome. Proceeds will go toward a playground on the Riverbend Trail in honor of a student from their school who died by suicide. You can find them on Instagram @MHS Raise Your Voice.

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