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Mental health fair aims to knock out stigmas at Redlands East Valley High

Redlands Daily Facts - 3/12/2019

March 12--Dealing with mental health issues can be isolating, but students at Redlands East Valley High School want their classmates to know it doesn't have to be that way.

A student-organized mental health fair on Wednesday, March 6, offered local resources, art therapy, and interactive activities aimed at fighting stigma and encouraging caring.

Senior Samantha McGuire, one of the students in the Colton Redlands Yucaipa -- Regional Occupational Program mental health classes who organized the event said she feels the fair helped people.

"I myself have gone through the struggles of mental illnesses, and I know how hard it is to find help, and really just get that courage to be OK with accepting help," she said.

It's important for students to learn "it's completely OK to ask for help, it does not mean that you are weak in any way," she added.

Steven Lujan, also a senior, said it was important for him to help organize the event because a lot of people stigmatize "and I didn't want that to continue around campus."

He also wants to make sure everyone knows where to get resources.

Joel Sanjuan, also a senior, said living in such a chaotic society with so much negative news made organizing the fair both personal to him, and a way to help the community.

"What we're trying to do is to combat stigma in order to make seeking help normal, and in reality make it as if it wasn't the wrong thing in the first place," he said.

Presenters at this second annual fair included the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, Spring to Autumn Family Counseling, University of Redlands, South Coast Counseling Services, and campus clubs.

There was also art therapy, including origami, and painting tiles for a mosaic. There were games knocking down pins representing different mental health stigmas such as "mental illnesses are not real," and a table on how social media increases anxiety for teens.

"There are so many stigmas around mental health that prevent our student population from seeking the help that they need," said ROP teacher Wendy McClung, who helped the students organize the event. "Normalizing treatment for mental illness and seeking help for mental illness actually opens doors for students."

The organizers themselves got to apply how to use positive mental attitudes when rain forced the fair into the gym and the lights went out.

Students stayed positive, saying "we've got to get this done, even if we have to use the flashlights in our phones," McClung said.

McGuire said she'd love to see the idea spread to other schools.

Redlands Unified School District spokeswoman MaryRone Shell said in an email that the district is working on building partnerships to advocate and spread awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

She said the district hopes that by accessing the fair "our students will know that they are all valued, there is hope and if they need it, there is help."

Shell shared a 24-hour national suicide prevention hotline, 800-273-8255, and a crisis text line that can be reached by texting the word "home" to 741741.


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