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Drumming up awareness to beat the stigma

West and North drumlines join together to raise money for local mental health center

%22Mental+health+is+a+subject+that+isn%27t+normally+talked+about+a+lot%2C%22+drumline+instructor+Courtney+Long+said.+%22We+are+aware+that+a+lot+of+our+students%2C+our+staff+members%2C+and+people+in+the+community+struggle+with+mental+health.%22

"Mental health is a subject that isn't normally talked about a lot," drumline instructor Courtney Long said. "We are aware that a lot of our students, our staff members, and people in the community struggle with mental health."

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary

"Mental health is a subject that isn't normally talked about a lot," drumline instructor Courtney Long said. "We are aware that a lot of our students, our staff members, and people in the community struggle with mental health."

Zak Keel, Reporter

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Students in Davenport West High School’s drumline are raising awareness to beat the stigma of mental health through an outreach partnership with the Vera French Community Mental Health Center.

The goal is to raise funds to support community programs that Vera French offers while creating an open discussion with students about mental health in the community.

North High School is also partaking in the outreach project. West drumline instructor Courtney Long and North drumline instructor Shelby Tracy are equally involved in the project.

“She and I came up with this idea together to not only collaborate with another school, but to raise funds for a noble cause,” Long said.  West’s drumline is selling a variety of apparel, including short and long-sleeve t-shirts, and crew-neck sweatshirts. Each item is labeled “Drum up awareness to beat the stigma”. One-hundred percent of the profits from the online store will go to Vera French. Orders close at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30.

On World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, the North and West High drumlines will be visiting the main center of Vera French for an outreach picnic event provided by the foundation.

“We will be playing music for everyone who shows up to support the cause,”  Long said. “This is not a drumline battle situation, it is a collaboration! Both drumlines will trade off cadences to boost the mood of the whole picnic.”

They are also taking donations at the Oct. 12 football home-game for the Beat the Stigma fundraiser.

The executive director of Vera French, Jessica Malcheff, thinks funds should be directed to children.

“For this project, we thought it would be best to apply any funds we receive toward our children and youth services, which includes school-based therapy and Rick’s House of Hope and camp scholarships,” Malcheff said.

The school-based therapy service offered by Vera French provides counselors that go out into public schools and implement services for students who may not be able to travel to an office to receive the services that they require. Rick’s House of Hope allows students living with a mental illness or living with a family member with mental illness to attend summer camp.

Out of all the causes to raise money for, the two band instructors chose mental health for a reason.

“Mental health is a subject that isn’t normally talked about a lot,” Long said. “We are aware that a lot of our students, our staff members, and people in the community struggle with mental health.”

The main goal of the project accentuated by Long is to open up a discussion with students and provide a chance to bring up talking points of mental health and why it is important for people to reach out for help if they need it.

Malcheff emphasizes that even though it is 2018, people still don’t want to talk about mental illness or sometimes hesitate in doing so.

“Raising awareness in a fun and upbeat way, like with this project, helps everyone to understand that this is ok to talk about, we should be talking about this, and things are only going to get better if we do talk about it,” Malcheff said.

Accompanying Long, the drumline students involved in this cause feel that mental health is just as important as physical health. Senior Grace Shipley, a member of the drumline who plays the cymbals, believes that a stigma is still attached to mental health, and people treat mental and physical health differently.

“You are not alone and we all have stuff. I think it is so important for youth to realize that when they are going through feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, or loneliness to reach out to someone they trust and talk to them about these feelings.””

— Jessica Malcheff, Vera French Executive Director

“If someone breaks a leg or are sick, they seek medical attention. With a mental illness that isn’t the case most of the time. People may let their problems fester, and do not seek a help,” Shipley said.

As executive director of a mental health facility, Malcheff explains that the stigma surrounding mental health is still evident in our culture and in our community.

“Think about this when you wonder if the stigma still exists: when we are describing someone who has a medical illness, we say, ‘He has diabetes’ or ‘She has heart disease.’ How do we describe someone with a mental illness? ‘She’s schizophrenic’ or ‘He’s bipolar’. We do not distinguish between the individual and the illness by saying ‘She has schizophrenia’ or ‘He suffers from bipolar,’” Malcheff said. “We define the individual by their illness in a way that we never do with medical illness, and that is a stigma.”

Malcheff hopes to provide a strong message for all high school students through the use of this fundraiser – that you are never alone.

“You are not alone and we all have stuff. I think it is so important for youth to realize that when they are going through feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, or loneliness to reach out to someone they trust and talk to them about these feelings” Malcheff said. Chances are, someone else has felt that very same thing and that support can make all the difference for someone that is struggling.”

An end goal of the project is to not only spread awareness and raise funds, but to normalize the conversation about mental health.

“We need to talk about mental illness more as a community, instead of keeping it on the down-low. We should be able to talk about it openly,” Shipley said.

Malcheff believes that if this fundraiser and awareness campaign can help one student or adult understand that it is ok to reach out, talk about their feelings, and seek help, it will all be worth it.

“If this project helps more of the school system feel unafraid to talk about and address these issues, that will be even better,” Malcheff said.

Students can support the Beat the Stigma fundraiser through buying apparel, donating, or even openly discussing the topic at hand, however, Malcheff believes that we can all have a direct influence towards breaking the stigma of mental health through acquiring two simple components.

“The Vera French Foundation mission is to inspire compassionate awareness and generous giving to support the mental health of our community,” Malcheff said. “Compassion and awareness are two key components of our mission statement because that is something we can all do to help improve the mental health of our community.”

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About the Contributors
Zak Keel, Reporter

Zak Keel is a senior who has done work in student activism, engineering, and looks forward to his work as a first year staffer on the Beak ‘n’ Eye.

Keel is looking forward to the experience that newspaper brings and the covering of various topics, with one of the main topics being allyship. Allyship is all about anti-oppression. While he’s part of newspaper, he is also involved in other activities.

He participates in the enginering department, more specifically EDD (engineering, design, and development). It is an engineering research group in which students work in teams to design and develop an original solution to a valid open-ended technical problem by applying the engineering design process. Compared to what the robotics team designs, the EDD team designs solutions for a different set of problems.

However, as it goes with everyone, Keel needs a break every now and then just to escape. He enjoys hiking with friends and relaxing in nature during his free time.

Written by Zack Misner

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Tim O'Leary, Reporter

He hears the sound of the best techno song he’s heard thus far.

“Beep boop beep boodoop doo doo doo” and junior Tim O’Leary enters his own headspace of serenity.

O’Leary is not your average Joe who listens to the same top hit song on repeat in his car. He takes pride in listening to electronic music (techno specifically), punk and also his personal selection of ambient music.

He relates his love for music with the poetic ability that also comes along in writing. As a reporter for the Beak ‘n’ Eye, O’Leary specializes in everything. He writes features pieces, news, or sports and is willing to do whatever it takes to help out the staff.

Keeping calm in stressful situations is a strategy that the newspaper staff frequently visits, and O’Leary’s reminder to us is to “not worry about being perfect and to keep straining yourself to a minimum.

Written by Kelly Snawerdt

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Drumming up awareness to beat the stigma