Allied for Change: Mental Health Alliance provides safe space for students


Photo by: Anjum Alam

MHA’s bulletin board hung across the counselor’s office.

“Fake it till you make it!”

“Boys don’t cry, and girls don’t care.”

“Most Stressed Senior”

“Insane in the membrane.”

Conversation surrounding mental health is overrun by idioms and superlatives. Humor is a predictable response to a topic as serious as mental health, and unavoidable, as it speaks to one of the baser human emotions: joy. Yet, some try to strike a balance between using humor to lighten the mood and honoring the seriousness of the topic.

The week of Sept. 4-10 commemorated Suicide Awareness Week nationally. During this time dedicated to internal reflection, Cy Creek’s Mental Health Alliance (MHA) is making an effort to spread awareness and encourage discussions on the topic of mental health.

“Mental health on a high school level just isn’t talked about enough, and it’s something that’s really important to me,” Shirley Nguyen, a junior and member of MHA, said. “Occasionally you’ll have a conversation about it, but I feel like no one really knows where they are mentally, and what they’re doing, mentally.”

Nguyen has been a member of MHA for over a year, joining as a sophomore.

“I wanted a safe space where I could confide in other students my age, and it was never awkward,” Nguyen said. “All of us relate to each other and help each other out and spread the word about mental health to everyone else in the school.”

A primary goal of MHA is to maintain a sense of community at Cy Creek.

“A majority of our meetings are targeted to the general Cy Creek student, but we try to make sure that it’s a safe enough place where if people wanted to talk about their personal experiences, they could,” Nguyen said.

At these meetings, MHA members are constantly thinking of new ways to reach out to as many students as possible.

An MHA flyer with detachable tags for Remind information. (Photo by: Anjum Alam)

“We usually come together once a month,” Trinh, a junior and member of MHA, said. “We come together and we get out some ideas, we usually make posters and, ‘What are some things we could say that would make people feel better, or make the day just a little better?’”

Trinh was convinced to join MHA because of a poster similar to the ones she describes.

“I first got interested because my friends, my upperclassmen, were involved with MHA,” Trinh said. “I was kind of hesitant to join, but then I saw this poster one time in the hallway. It was like ‘Words of Affirmation’ and it was just the sweetest thing, and it just made me feel good.”

Trinh has tried to pass on this same positive feeling through her involvement with MHA.

“We just start getting together working to make posters, and we just all try to have fun together,” Trinh said. “We are all working on our own mental health as we are trying to help others as well.”

One of MHA’s most recent posters found on the first floor of Cy Creek. (Photo by: Anjum Alam)

Much of MHA’s outreach has worked in their favor, with new members joining, and even more members re-establishing themselves, such as Jia Chadha, a junior and member of MHA.

“I think [MHA] should have more meetings and be more advertised,” Chadha said.

Chadha feels that creating more opportunities for members to join MHA is important.

“This year I did see that [MHA] put up flyers,” Chadha said. “You know how you can rip off a piece of paper and it has their info on it?”

Yet, there are still some roadblocks to some students actively participating in MHA.

“I feel like there is a stigma around mental health and talking about it,” Chadha said. “I was walking down the hall with these two girls and I stopped to rip off that piece of paper, and they looked at me in shock.”

This is one example of the guardedness toward conversations about mental health.

“I feel like awareness for mental health issues just isn’t talked about enough,” Nguyen said.

MHA is constantly trying to combat this distrust for discussions regarding mental health by creating an inviting atmosphere.

“A lot of the posters that we hang up around school is a main way to reach all the students because they are always in places where everyone can see it,” Nguyen said.

Even though mental health is a topic that concerns everyone, people still hesitate to participate in the conversation.

“I think if we just take care of it, it will be better at Cy Creek because it is kind of an ‘eggshell’ topic at Cy Creek,” Trinh said. “A lot of people have strong opinions about it.”

Suicide Awareness Week is an important reminder to check in on mental health, but it is one that is often disregarded.

“I feel like mental health is widely discussed, however, I feel like sometimes it can be very neglected,” Trinh said. “We don’t put it as one of our main priorities because we’re always so caught up in life, we’re always so busy.”

But, due to MHA’s efforts around Cy Creek, more students can learn about their own mental health and that of others.

“It is a really small club and we don’t really do anything big, but I feel like it does have a big effect on someone’s day,” Trinh said. “Someone could be having a bad day or they’re not in the best mindset, and I feel like those little things really help them a lot.”

Administration has even implemented some changes in order to support mental health.

“This year, I love how we have CeCe the dog,” Chadha said. “Having a service animal can help students this year, especially juniors and seniors because that’s where most of the stress lies.”

CeCe, Cy Creek’s comfort dog pictured in front of Cougar gear. Photo Credits: Cougar Productions

These are just one of several steps being taken by MHA and Cy Creek in their efforts to create a better environment for students and staff to discuss their mental health.

“I think that since it’s still the beginning of the year, they’re trying to advertise the club so they still have opportunities to bring awareness to this more,” Chadha said. “But there’s still room to grow.”