Student support club promotes mental health at Heights
Topeka Capital Journal - 5/27/2019
When Olivia Talbert joined in with other Topeka high school students for a suicide prevention roundtable discussion at Family Service and Guidance Center last fall, she was intrigued by a Hope Street Academy student’s description of a women’s support group at the school.
She and her fellow Shawnee Heights High School participants talked about doing something similar for their classmates.
“We were sitting in the car on the way back to school and we thought, ‘What if we made something bigger for everybody who needs help at any time,’ ” Talbert said. “We knew we wanted to host a support group session, but the first step was to start a club with the basis of it being to promote mental health and a higher morality within the school.”
The new club, T-Birds Together, will find ways to make people feel better by doing things such as putting up positive signs in the school and welcoming freshmen at the start of the year. Talbert also wants members to participate in community activities like the Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition’s annual 5K run/walk fundraiser.
T-Birds Together will also host a support group session every Wednesday next year during late start. There will be a different topic discussed at each session, which will be open to anyone who wishes to attend. Confidentiality agreements will be signed by everyone so it is a safe environment to talk about feelings. Also, there will be safety slips available so students can go to a counselor, who will always be on hand during a session.
The process for starting a new club at SHHS entails creating a constitution. However, Talbert went even further by writing an entire club manual, with help from Corey Hinton, a school social worker and the club’s sponsor.
To become a member, students have to be recommended by a teacher and go through an application process. Talbert pointed out this was necessary because they would be considered peer mentors and help facilitate the support groups.
“We thought members would need to be good at supporting their peers and be able to show they’re caring and supportive in the classroom,” Talbert explained.
Ensuring the mental health of her fellow students is a mission Talbert cares about deeply. She remembered one recent year when it seemed as though everyone she knew on social media was posting about a friend attempting or committing suicide. It concerned her that students were going through such emotional times and not getting the support they needed.
“The club’s main goal is to help support the students here at Shawnee Heights," she said, "to be the best people we can be and show kindness and empathy throughout the entire school.”
Linda Ditch, Special to The Capital-Journal