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Ask an expert - JENNIFER CAVE, HIGH SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER

 

Last updated 12/15/2021 at 3:18pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Hinsdale Central High School social worker Jennifer Cave sees the pressures that today's students are under. By drawing attention to mental health throughout the month of December, she hopes more students will realize that it's OK to ask for help. (Jim Slonoff photo)

What is the goal of Mental Health month at Central?

Students and faculty at Hinsdale Central and South high schools are seeing green this month, and it has nothing to do with jealousy. Throughout the month of December, teachers, staff and students at both schools are being encouraged to wear green to show support of those struggling with mental health.

Led by the Hinsdale High School District 86 Operation Snowball chapter and club sponsors Jennifer Cave of Hinsdale Central and Michelle Proutsos and Bridgette Bova of Hinsdale South, December is being recognized as Mental Health/Healthy Choices Awareness month on both high school campuses.

"We really wanted to remind everyone that it's OK to not be OK," said Cave, a social worker at Central.

The monthlong series of events began Dec. 1 with a presentation by M& P Productions, a nationally known pair of motivational speakers from Carl Sandburg High School who promote positivity and confidence. Their presentation focused on "ordinary is extraordinary - embracing awkwardness," Case said. A majority of students at both schools attended the presentation either live or via livestream, she said, kicking off a month of activities geared toward raising self-esteem and fighting the stigma that too often comes with mental health struggles.

Hundreds of students and staff purchased green "you matter" T-shirts to wear at the Dec. 3 "green-out" varsity basketball game and throughout the month. The shirts serve as a visible show of support to those who are silently struggling, a message that they don't need to struggle alone and a reminder that it's OK to ask for help. Cave said she's already seeing a difference in the way students are facing their stresses and worries.

"Students are talking about mental health and they're talking about how they're feeling," Cave said.

Money from T-shirt sales will be used to support Erika's Lighthouse, a Winnetka-based nonprofit that raises awareness about adolescent depression and encourages good mental health.

One week in December was set aside as spirit week. On Mindfulness Monday, comfort dogs paid visits to both campuses. On Treat Yourself Tuesday, students were reminded about the importance of self-care and given cookies as a reminder to treat themselves with care and kindness. On Wednesday, both campuses recognized Write it Out Wednesday and the importance of journaling as a tool for mental health. Central's poetry club marked the day with an open mic event.

Thursday was Thankful Thursday, when teachers spoke about how to express gratitude and show appreciation to others. Finally, Friday was Free To Be Me Friday. Students were treated to hot chocolate, invited to participate in a Zumba class and reminded throughout the day that their differences are what makes them special.

"We really are trying to build up that self-esteem," Cave said.

As students leave for break and begin preparing for end-of-semester exams, Cave said she hopes they use the tools and resources available to them to support their mental health.

"We go beyond academics," Cave said, reminding students that their school's counselors and social workers are there to help.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]

 
 

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