High School Alliance Behavioral Health students Lindsey Roberg, Emily Kokesh and Haile Bartlett hold up the children's book they created for their stigma project.
On April 30, UNMC High School Alliance students in the Intro to Behavioral Health course presented their stigma projects. Each project focused on combating the stigma surrounding various behavioral health concerns in a variety of ways. Implementation was a new addition to the stigma projects this year. Students were required to take their project and implement it in the community in some way.
Project subjects ranged from an overall reduction of mental health stigma among adolescents to more specific projects focusing on the ill effects of sleep deprivation. One group, with members Yessenia Garcia, Jon Paul and Amelia Mendoza, teamed up with the Better Sleep Council to create an awareness campaign for college students on the importance of getting adequate rest. “Sleep is very underrated in college students who are going through so much,” Paul said, “They put it to the side.”
The group handed out informational cards to students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and in UNMC’s Sorrell Center and asked students if they knew how much sleep they were supposed to be getting. “Some of [the students] laughed when they heard the recommended amount,” Mendoza said.
Another group focused on reducing mental health stigma in younger children. Members Lindsey Roberg, Emily Kokesh and Haile Bartlett created an illustrated children’s book called “Melvin the Monkey” about a young monkey suffering from bullying due to his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). “It’s easy for young children to be judgmental because mental illness is foreign to them,” Kokesh said, “Being able to understand their classmates would help them to get along with everyone.”
The students in this group implemented their project by reading the book to a group of kindergarten and first graders. After hearing the story, one of the young children the students read to told a teacher “Just because people may do things differently to you, doesn’t mean they’re weird or strange.”
This year is the second year of the Intro to Behavioral Health course. Last year, one of the stigma projects, the Messenger Bird, went on to be developed into a full-fledged campaign. The origami birds were distributed to various schools across the state of Nebraska.