Riverhead High School Students Help Boost Mental Health and Wellness
Informational Flyers and Mental Health Kits Reduce Stigma and Uplift Community
RIVERHEAD, NEW YORK (DECEMBER 2022)—In an important recent lesson, Riverhead High School students worked to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through education. Students constructed kits to help others achieve relaxation, cope with difficult emotions and promote positive mental health. After learning about both mental health and mental illness in their health classes, students engaged in impactful projects to improve their community.
“In the first quarter of the school year, we explored the differences between mental health and mental illness and the role both play in our lives and in society,” said health education teacher Ms. Lindenbaum. “In our lessons on mental health, we learned about stress responses, stress management techniques, human motivation and sources of strength and comfort. We studied the importance of normalizing mental illness and how to best show support. It is crucial students learn this; a high percentage of teenagers experience mental illness, and many people have a mental illness at some point in their lives.”
This learning culminated in two projects. The first involved students researching a mental illness they wished to learn more about or have had experience with. They created one-page informational flyers to explain the illness, signs, symptoms and treatment options and included any celebrities diagnosed with the respective illness. These flyers contribute to the mission of minimizing the stigma that often surrounds mental illnesses, and students expressed that mental illnesses need to be taken as seriously as physical illnesses or injuries.
The second project was assembling mental health kits for others in the community. The kits included journals, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, fidget toys, puzzles, stuffed animals and games. Students also added letters of support and encouragement, with some even sharing their personal experiences with mental illness and struggling mental health. Students intended for these letters to assure the recipients that someone empathizes with their situation and wants to uplift them. The kits were donated to South Oaks Hospital.
“We are so proud of our students for combating the harmful stigma accompanying mental illness and compassionately providing support to others in their community,” said Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Dr. Augustine E. Tornatore.