Muhlenberg County Public Schools kickstarted its “Stop the Stigma” campaign for students district-wide to promote mental health.
MCPS Student Support Director Julie Pendley said the “Mental Fitness Focus Group’’ that started the campaign has been meeting for the past year to discuss how the schools can improve mental health support and resources for students, as well as encourage them to seek help when they need it. The group is made up of community representatives, teachers, staff, counselors and students alike, she said.
Pendley said mental health can be such a taboo subject, especially for children that might feel embarrassed about addressing problems with which they are dealing. She said the campaign’s main goal is to send a message to students and the community that it’s OK to ask for help and to provide necessary resources for students to do just that.
“Our goal is that we raise awareness of mental health issues and the mental health resources that we have available and it opens the lines of communication,” Pendley said. “Not only to increase counseling measures, but also increase the students’ ability to reach out and ask for help … We’re looking at it from the perspective of if you had a medical condition, you would not be shunned for reaching out to get help.”
Pendley said the Mental Fitness Focus Group is working on a publicity process for the campaign by posting signage around the school and having banners and billboards made. She said the group has been speaking with several coalition groups to help raise awareness about the campaign and its cause around the school district, and the community.
One of the biggest marketing focus-points for the campaign currently is having “Stop the Stigma” T-shirt sales to raise money for the campaign to have more resources available, such as guest speakers on mental health awareness.
Pendley said the community response to the campaign so far has been “really positive.”
“What we need to do is start equipping our kiddos to have additional coping skills and to be able to ask for help,” she said. “Helping our kids … find additional resources instead of turning to more negative decisions. We don’t think it’s going to turn around tomorrow, but … we really hope we can make an impression.”