Green Ribbon Day: The Catalyst for Change Against the Stigma of Mental Health

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Green Ribbon Day: The Catalyst for Change Against the Stigma of Mental Health

Depiction of Mykee Fowlin, motivational speaker at BCA during Green Ribbon Day.

Depiction of Mykee Fowlin, motivational speaker at BCA during Green Ribbon Day.

Grace Tan

Depiction of Mykee Fowlin, motivational speaker at BCA during Green Ribbon Day.

Grace Tan

Grace Tan

Depiction of Mykee Fowlin, motivational speaker at BCA during Green Ribbon Day.

Maeve McFadden, Managing Editor

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On Tuesday, March 5, BCA held its first Green Ribbon Day for Mental Health Awareness, led by the Mental Health club. The event was empowering, important, and a promising beginning to addressing mental health issues that have always lain beneath the surface, but have shied away from coming into sharp focus. It’s no secret that BCA students undergo stress and pressure due to the rigorous nature of the school, but challenging oneself does not equate to neglecting one’s own needs! Instead, as Green Ribbon Day emphasized, students should find coping methods, and if they are struggling with a mental illness, to speak up.

Unfortunately, mental illnesses are considered more ambiguous and obscure in our society because they aren’t necessarily obvious- severe depression and anxiety are not like a distinctive disability the can be addressed in  variety of settings. Yet, while many teenagers and adults suffer from mental illness, due to the stigma that often portrays someone struggling with mental health as “weak”, that someone often doesn’t speak up about it and, as a result, doesn’t receive the help and support one might need to get better. Depression, anxiety, and, tragically, suicide levels have increased in teenagers this past decade. So, more than ever, it is our job to take it upon ourselves to open up the conversation and to talk about this stigma because its power only exists when there is silence on the subject of mental health. Fortunately for BCA, Green Ribbon Day helped open up that conversation.

In the upcoming weeks to Green Ribbon Day, posters were plastered in Park Avenue spots along BCA hallways, doors, and bathrooms. The posters weren’t marketing a sale of a product, nor simply encouraging attendance at an event- instead, each of these posters had either offered a fact about mental health or offered encouragement to talk to someone. Some of the statistics are startling: “ 60% of mentally ill adults don’t receive mental health services” read one poster. The facts may be shocking to think about, but each poster added more meaning to the event because they showed how necessary this day was for BCA and our community.

On the morning of Green Ribbon Day, each poster had a sheet of paper with a graphic on it titled: “Mental Health: The Basics.” The paper had information on coping mechanisms and different types of mental illnesses, all with the purpose of educating students about mental health. Throughout the day, students attended a workshop of their choice, such as “Depression and Anxiety in Teens”, a yoga class, or an introductory class to the practice of mindfulness. Then, the day concluded with a school-wide assembly featuring a speech (slightly controversial) from former governor Codey and a presentation by inspirational speaker Mykee Fowlin.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Kelly Lu, president and founder of Mental Health Club, and ask her more about Green Ribbon Day.

AC: What inspired you to put together Green Ribbon Day?

KL: When I was first forming the club, it was actually one of the first ideas I had: to have something that involved the entire school dedicated to mental health because we don’t really have anything like that. And I really love IDA, so I thought it would be really good to apply that format to mental health because we could have speakers come in and talk about mental health, and assemblies always tend to bring the school together and bring a sense of unity and community.

AC: Why do you think mental health is so important, especially at BCA?

KL: First of all, mental health, in general, is still being studied and understood by science and society. Because it’s not seen physically, it’s harder to understand, and a lot of people don’t accept mental illness as a real thing. Also, today mental health is more of an issue possibly from the lack of human connection resulting from the onset of the technology age, causing a more commonly stressful lifestyle. And then at BCA, we are under lots and lots of stress, and stress can make mental illness more likely, and generally, it’s hard for people in high school to reach out and get help, especially if they’re struggling with mental illness. Seeing that we didn’t have anything addressing mental health at BCA, I just thought there had to be something created.

AC: After Green Ribbon Day, how can BCA continue the conversation about mental health with the student body?

KL: So, that is something we are trying to work on. I’m not sure, honestly- I think in general we can implement and have more resources for students. This is something I was trying to talk to the BCA administration about but it’s difficult even for them to apply students’ ideas. Also, having more events that raise awareness for students like speakers every now and then is something I would like to see implemented, and there’s Mental Health Awareness month in May and Mental Health Awareness week in October when we could have activities that bring the school together and also keep the students informed. [The Mental Health club] had the idea of basically keeping a sign in every class with basic mental health facts and resources for emergencies like suicide prevention. So the most important thing is just keeping the school involved and informed.

So for next year’s Green Ribbon Day (although you won’t be here), what do you hope to see different or improved?

KL: There’s this distinction between mental health and wellness- a lot of people were saying Green Ribbon Day was like “wellness day”, but mental health and wellness are two different things, but in order for it to be a school-wide event, it had to involve wellness because not every student is affected by mental illness. Mental health issues are mainly mental illnesses, which is a change in chemicals in your brain that is debilitating, and you may need therapy and medical attention. Wellness can just be managing the stress in your life, by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, stuff like that. You don’t want to blend mental illness with just stress because mental illness is actually debilitating and you usually can’t deal with it just by managing your stress. In the future, an event that is a little more personalized for students suffering from mental illness would be nice, rather than a general day for wellness. Also, next year Green Ribbon Day should have more workshops that we know are really good, and I don’t know if we could have Mykee Fowlin come back, so maybe [we could have] an assembly run by students!

KL: I’m really passionate about mental health, and mental health is important to how you enjoy life. It pains me that there are students suffering from mental illness [who] don’t get help. They aren’t living their best lives because they are too afraid to take that step, and that’s for a lot of reasons- social pressures, lack of resources, etc. So I wish that everyone could live a little bit better, and hopefully, Green Ribbon Day was a step towards that at BCA.

Thank you so much, Kelly and all of Mental Health Club for organizing Green Ribbon Day!