Initiative helps to generate conversations surrounding mental health
Ria Parikh | Staff Writer
The Hope Squad is here to help.
On Wednesday, October 3, the Hope Squad had their official introduction during homeroom. Mary Ellen Theisen is one of seven advisors along with Lori Roth, Megan Cameron, Randall Hubbard, Maggie Long, Michelle Bruewer, and Angie Johnston who guide the members.
Mason is one of about 20 schools in the Cincinnati area to initiate Hope Squad, and Theisen said they were inspired by the Hope Squad formed at a Utah high school whose curriculum provides the foundation for the branch at Mason. Theisen said that Hope Squad puts most of their focus on developing healthier brains and their role is to act as a supplement to the professional help available, not as therapists or in place of anything else.
“Hope Squad is an initiative to improve not only the mental health of our students but also the culture within our building,” Theisen said. “We found it to be a perfect time when our students are working through stressful issues to have a peer-based program that they could respect and move to those individuals in need.”
Seniors Annabella Collins is co-president of the Hope Squad. Inspired to join by her past experience in losing a loved one, Collins said that Hope Squad strives to keep MHS students happier, safer, and aware that there are people to talk to if they need help.
“Our purpose is to spread awareness about suicide prevention,” Collins said. “To help other peers look for warning signs, how to get help, who to talk to to get help. We want to let them know that they’re not alone in this huge school and that there are so many people here who are willing to help and want to help and they are loved.”
Senior Sujaya Sunkara is the committee chair for the Community Outreach and Education committee. Sunkara said the purpose of her committee is to educate parents and students about mental health.
“As a whole we just want to educate the community,” Sunkara said. “There’s stigmas around mental health and we want all students and parents to know that it’s okay. It’s really important that not only parents but students know how to handle these things, that it’s not taboo and that a lot of kids go through it.”
The Hope Squad consists of roughly 60 students and is lead by seven advisors who all work during third bell to plan events and formulate ideas to benefit a positive high school environment.
Theisen said that a goal of Hope Squad is to spark change in Mason by making mental health acceptable to talk about and openly struggle with, for kids and adults alike.
“So many kids and adults deal with mental health issues, and we want to make mental health an okay thing to talk about, and help kids find the resources inside and outside the building to help them be better people, as far as having healthier brains,” Theisen said. “We want to bring hope and joy to others, help people realize that the challenging time that they’re going through possibly is not a long term challenge and that there are solutions for it.”
In the future, Theisen said that she and other advisors would like to see Hope Squad initiated in other buildings within the district.
“The district, at some point, would like to move Hope Squad to the middle school,” Theisen said. “Other districts in our area have already done a middle school and high school component, but we really wanted to get our feet wet with high school first. Not to overshadow the needs that are at the younger level, but I think we wanted to focus on this first and do it well, and not to spread ourselves too thin.”
In order to create a safe and relaxing environment for students to converse, Theisen said the Hope Squad has decorated a bubble room and they eventually hope to have a similar room in every pod.
“It’s going to be a safe haven,” Theisen said. “If Hope Squad members are talking to a students that has a situation that they need help with, they can go there to talk. No one really wants to have a serious conversation with someone in the middle of the hallway, so this room would be private and comorting.”
The Hope Squad is using the Z2 bubble room as a safe space for people to talk.
Collins said that the responsibilities of the Hope Squad members are not exclusive, and that anyone can help.
“Even if you’re not a member in Hope Squad, everyone can help,” Collins said. “A common question is ‘Where can I find a Hope Squad member?” (but) it doesn’t have to be a Hope Squad member. Everyone in the community is able to help anyone. Just show kindness, show that you care, look out for people. It’s not about being part of Hope Squad, it’s Hope Squad being a part of the whole school. It’s everyone’s role to look out for one another.”
Photos by Tanner Pearson and contributed by Hope Squad.