College students throughout Nebraska are being welcomed to school this semester with wooden pennies promoting the message “Penny for Your Thoughts Campaign – 1 in 5 Nebraskans have a mental illness. 5 in 5 can do something about it.” The wooden token also provides a link to the campaign website, which contains crisis information and hotlines along with content about common mental health conditions and other resources, such as on-campus counseling services.
Student mental health organizations, including Active Minds and student chapters of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), distributed the pennies at welcome events to help make their peers feel more comfortable discussing mental health issues and utilizing counseling services.
“Any outreach to educate others about mental health issues is a step toward awareness and acceptance,” said Abby Stewart, secretary of the Wayne State College Active Minds chapter. “Also, these tokens are clever little ways to get a foot in the door of people’s lives…even if one person internalizes the quotation on the back, it may be just enough to get the gears turning and start a revolution in his or her thinking.”
Student organizations at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and Wayne State College have distributed the wooden pennies. Other student organizations interested in the campaign and handing out the tokens may contact email@example.com for more information.
The Penny for Your Thoughts campaign originated from a group of undergraduate students attending BHECN’s College Ambassador Conference in 2015. Students were tasked with creating their own mental health awareness campaign, and Penny for Your Thoughts was selected as the winning project. With BHECN funding, the students’ design was turned into reality.
Campaign creators (pictured above, left to right): Kaitlin Clancy, Pete Lass, Chelsea Musfeldt, Ciera Afrank, Allison Vlach, and Alan Epley