Mental illness among students is on the rise in Central Wisconsin, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
In Portage County, nearly 30 percent of students said they felt sad or hopeless for weeks at a time, so much so that they stopped doing normal activities. The numbers are similar, and growing, across Wood and Marathon County as well.
A group of students at SPASH is trying to increase awareness on mental illness and end the stigma.
“There’s a lot more pressure put on students to be great, but not just in one aspect. You can’t just be smart, you have to be smart, be an athlete, be involved in the community service,” said Casey Summers, SPASH student and co-chair of the group.
Oct. 10 was National Mental Health Awareness Day. Instead of one day, the students created a week of activities to increase awareness on mental illnesses.
“I think creating an environment in our school where people are accepting and understanding about mental illness will really help everybody,” said Anna Vandehey, co-chair of the group.
T-shirts were created, green ribbon pins handed out and various other activities took place. Wednesday night youth motivational speaker Sarah Leeper spoke to students and the community on her struggle with anxiety.
“Our kids are suffering and they are suffering in silence,” said Leeper. “They feel like they go through these things alone, but there’s really actually so many people that feel the exact same way.”
The group of students, who are a part of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America and HOSA-Future Health Professionals, said that others at SPASH have been receptive to the mental health awareness week.