Each season, Safe At Home’s peer leaders decide on an issue that is negatively impacting their communities and create a campaign to raise awareness and provide resources on this topic. This spring, they chose mental health awareness to focus on, especially in the difficult time of COVID-19. The peer leaders, a small group of students from each school, were trained in-depth on advocacy, leadership, and mentorship. With support from their Margaret’s Place counselors and teachers, the peer leaders were able to create campaigns at each school focusing on helping students with their mental health by creating virtual workshops, resources, and “drop in” classrooms.
At Brooklyn Academy of Science & the Environment (BASE), the peer leaders decided to focus the campaign on Mental Health Awareness. As a form of virtual tabling, tip cards with information on 24-hour resources were created by our alumni intern Roxy and emailed out to all the students. In the same email a little blurb was included about the importance of talking about mental health issues and informing everyone to stop by the Margaret’s Place virtual classroom for more resources, future workshops, and music hour. During our peer leadership meetings, we held a music hour where we discussed the impact of current affairs on individual and collective mental health, the importance of breaking the taboo of talking about mental health issues, and how this makes its way to music.
At the College Academy, peer leaders participated in workshops and developed materials for other classmates on the importance of talking about mental health and breaking the stigma. This message was further supported in Margaret’s Place newsletters to staff, students, and parents, which highlighted how stigma about mental health impacts all individuals. The campaign explained how, like physical health, mental health exists on a spectrum and seeking care for one’s mental health should not be seen by society as a weakness. Our counselor, alumni intern, and peer leaders created 5 Instagram posts shared throughout the week of campaign, which highlighted the campaign slogan #NowUseeMe. Posts included information about mental health, understanding anger and how emotions impact mental health, myths and facts about mental health, impacts of long term stress, and positive affirmations and stress relief activities.
At JHS143, our counselor and alumni intern developed a campaign activity guide that was emailed to Peer Leaders and students to raise awareness on Mental Health. This topic was also highlighted in student, parent and staff newsletters with information on mental health, how to break the stigma, and ways to relieve stress and increase positive coping skills. The campaign highlighted the important message that mental health and physical health both exist on spectrums and deserve the same important attention. The need for mental health to be destigmatized in order to help all people was the core message of the campaign. The campaign activity guide included information on specific mental health diagnoses that students often express either having symptoms of or interests in knowing more about, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The guide also gave comprehensive tools to destress, including breathing exercises, grounding activities, and positive coping skills.
The Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science campaign, “It’s All About Health!” focused on 3 different aspects of health, including mental health, social-emotional health, and physical health. Throughout the campaign, parents, students, and staff were sent newsletters, activities, art prompts, and information across these areas. Newsletters provided information on self-care, staying connected despite social distancing, boundaries, and more.
At JHS217, the Margaret’s Place spring campaign focused on spreading awareness against domestic violence in the age of COVID-19. While shifting to a virtual campaign came with challenges, the team of peer leaders and counselors were able to expand the reach of the campaign to hopefully impact the JHS217 larger community. Students received information on how to help a friend or neighbor who may be experiencing domestic violence. They hosted a call to action, asking students to create posters with information on domestic violence that they can share in a safe way. Students hung posters in their apartment buildings, shared information on social media, and with their friends and family. Teachers also received information about how to talk to their students about domestic violence. As part of the spring campaign, they facilitated 16 in-class workshops about domestic violence and how the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges.
Even in such unprecedented times, the peer leaders and Margaret’s Place counselors worked hard on their campaigns, making them accessible online as well as providing resources and help regardless of the difficulties they may have faced. The Mental Health Awareness campaigns this spring were incredibly successful, and both the peer leaders and counselors worked hard to create beneficial resources for their fellow students.