Students and teachers at Athens High School are joining a national movement to help raise awareness for mental health issues.
AHS is hosting its inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week through Friday. According to a release from AHS, the purpose of the week is to “raise awareness of the importance of self-care and stress management as well as minimizing the stigma associated with seeking mental health help.”
“My hope for MHAW 2021 is to help improve our students' quality of life, no matter their current station in life,” AHS psychology teacher Paige Hicks said. “Our student committee is working with the ACS Mental Health Services Coordinator to prepare a dashboard for all students and staff that will include self-care tips as well as stress management techniques.”
The mental health week is being sponsored by the AHS chapter of social studies honor society Rho Kappa, under the tutelage of Hicks. Various aspects of mental health will be focused on as part of the week with the ultimate goal of increasing happiness and reducing stress.
For example, students in the psychology class created posters highlighting how good sleep habits can help improve both quantity and quality of sleep.
Another benefit to AHS students will be visits by Eli, the therapy dog from iAcademy at Athens Elementary. Eli will visit with students during special times throughout the week.
MHAW student committee members will be sharing silicone bracelets with the message “Your Mental Health Matters” printed on them.
“As the psychology teacher, I have seen numerous sources detailing the mental health issues of today's teenagers,” Hicks said. “I have also collected anecdotal evidence over the past four years from my own students about stress levels and emotional needs. This informal data encouraged me to plan a Mental Health Awareness Week for 2020, but unfortunately, COVID prevented us from having it.”
Hicks said she and her students hope to make MHAW an annual event at AHS.
“We hope this sparks interest in mental health awareness school-wide and that more students are interested in the planning of MHAW in the future,” Hicks said. “We would love for the initiative to grow districtwide eventually. We would also love to grow our community partnerships once COVID restrictions have eased.”
Members of the community are invited to use hashtag #AthensMHAW21 to participate in MHAW and to help promote mental health.