NHS Club Provides Mental Health Awareness to Elementary School Students


Photo by: Ella Mainville

Ella Mainville, Student of Journalism

Speeches about mental health will be given at elementary schools by high school student members of the Mental Health Awareness and Perception club starting this December, the club’s president says.

Simon Teckam, leader of the Mental Health Awareness and Perception club, which is more commonly referred to as MAP, expects to begin presenting to fourth graders across the district. While their list is yet to be finalized, he hopes to present at every school in the district to maximize the club’s outreach.

Especially after the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, mental health awareness has become more and more necessary for students. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s handbook on supporting student’s social, behavioral, and mental needs released the year after the pandemic began, students across the country’s struggles with mental health may impact their ability to participate in learning. Fortunately, mental health literacy shines a light in the dark, and often improves a student’s ability to ask for help and for treatment to be provided.

MAP plans to help elementary students “create a ‘mental health toolbox’ full of coping mechanisms they can use throughout their life,” Teckam said. 

With stigma surrounding mental health for young people, teaching about the mind and how to keep it healthy can be difficult. Mentalhealth.gov, a website run by the U.S. department of Health and Human Services, says in an article about mental health myths that, despite claims that children do not experience problems with mental health, in half of all patients, mental health disorders begin to show before the age of 14.

“People should care because there are a lot of misconceptions about mental health, especially with young people,” Co-leader Ellie Mertes said. Where there is a need, MAP plans to help. Misunderstandings that lie in their path to literacy are simply another teaching point.

Since 2019, MAP has been presenting to elementary schools and urging high-school students to help make a difference in their community. Teckam and Mertes report a growth of 24 new members after the highly-successful club fair. Students can still get involved this year by talking to either leader in-person, or emailing Teckam at [email protected].

Last year, the club found success in their presentations at every elementary school in the district — with a fifth grader even saying “Best presentation ever!” as the presenters left the room, Mertes shared. Because of a hiatus during the 2020-’21 school year because of to COVID-19, during the 2021-’22 school year presentations were given to both fourth and fifth grade students, to ensure that each student gained a better understanding of their mental health. 

They hope to have similar success this year with updated presentations and the creation of a new schedule, and plan to continue the club’s success in the future by finding strong leaders to take over the club after both Teckam and Mertes graduate in 2023.