Peer leaders aim to raise mental health awareness

Mentality Matters


Ivana Atuahene

Julia Hyatt and Natalia Valente pictured alongside guest speaker Scarlett Lewis.

Naomi Thomas, Arts and Clubs Editor

In an attempt to educate students and faculty on the rise of mental health issues, peer leaders Julia Hyatt and Natalia Valente created a week-long mental awareness campaign promoting mental stability and techniques to cope with stress.

To engage their peers the project included a table set-up in the cafeteria. The demonstration involved a tutorial on how to create a DIY stress ball. The interactive activity encouraged students to learn ways to improve their well being by creating a stress ball out of balloons and sand, alongside markers to decorate.

Hyatt explained how mental health has impacted the Millennial generation more than ever. “Our generation is so radically different from previous ones because we are surrounded by national, economic, and personally insecurity including the post 9/11 era, the 2008 recession, and the rise of social media.”

The five-day program of work concluded with a laid-back after-school event to cater to students who can benefit from the cause. The activities included a chance to win mindful coloring books, making stress balls, listening to music, creating art, and doing yoga to alleviate any daily struggles that come with the burden that mental health issues create.

Valente expressed how art and music have become a tool for her to cope with stress. “I think it’s important for people to find things that they’re interested in whether its art or a sport and use that as an outlet rather than to feed into any negativity.”

A Twitter page — @mentalhealthdhs — was also created that showcases the students the have participated in the movement and why mental health matters to them. The page shares tips and advice to on how to improve mental health.

Through the Peer Leadership mentor program with the freshman, Hyatt and Valente administered a lesson plan to help students recognize the importance of mental health awareness and the benefits of social and emotional learning.

“We wanted to educate and to inform freshman specifically because they are so naive towards this highly pertinent topic that surrounds us. As we mature it becomes way more prevalent in workplaces, as you continue in high school and college settings as well,” says Hyatt.

The duo also teamed up alongside Scarlett Lewis’ “Choose Love” campaign to fully convey their message. Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse who died in the fatal Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, spoke to students about ways to cope with trauma.