A growing student club at Pickerington High School Central recently staged a project designed to promote mental health and support students at the school.
Central junior C.J. Ellis said at the age of 16 he does not have a degree in mental health and is not an expert in behavioral-health sciences.
But he said he believes, as do the roughly 14 other students who regularly took part in meetings and programs of the first-year Bring Change to Mind Club, abbreviated to BC2M, that letting people know they are appreciated and have value is a big part of boosting someone's well-being and mental health.
Ellis spearheaded a project during the week of May 11 that asked students to post anonymous, positive messages about their peers at Central on the club's Instagram and Twitter accounts.
"It's something to help lift people up," said Ellis, the de facto leader of the club. "I see a lot of people at school who struggle with mental health or things on the inside.
"They don't feel like they're appreciated or that anyone cares about them."
May 14, Ellis said more than 80 messages had been posted through the club's two social media accounts.
"By the end of the day, I expect to have over 100," he said.
"I feel like we've helped a lot of people realize some self-worth inside of them."
Ellis said the messages had run the gamut, with people posting that a classmate or someone at the school is their best friend and they are happy they met, to others thanking parents or other students for helping to push them to succeed.
"We've gotten a lot telling people to keep being themselves, that their personalities radiate throughout the room," he said.
Ellis came up with the idea for the messages after implementing a similar project last school year as vice president of the sophomore class' student council.
That initiative had students write anonymous, positive messages to others at the school that were posted in the hallways.
While it was his concept, Ellis said many of the club members made the online message board a reality.
In particular, he said club member Lauren Reedy, a junior, created digital posters to promote the project on social media, while junior Cheyeanne Case helped edit a video announcement for the project and the school's Mental Health Week.
Additionally, Ellis expressed gratitude for club adviser Julie Brunner for her overall direction and support.
"She helped us get counselors and teachers involved in this project, too," he said.
Brunner, a guidance counselor at Central, said she became aware of the national BC2M Club last school year and decided to start a local club.
Nationally and locally, the mission of the clubs is to "end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health," according to the national organization's website, bringchange2mind.org.
Brunner said she was motivated to bring a club to Central, in part, by students such as Ellis who showed interest in and compassion for those with mental-health issues.
Backed by a $500 grant from the national organization that will be used over the Central club's first three years, students this year purchased earbuds, essential oils and stress balls for distribution to school guidance counselors.
"The group met the second and fourth Mondays of each month throughout the school year," Brunner said. "At some of the meetings, (students) made stress balls.
"Our big project this year was right before Thanksgiving. We passed out little paper turkeys and asked students to write a thankfulness note to another student and the Bring Change to Mind students made sure everyone in the building got a thankfulness note."
Brunner said club members have continued to hold meetings virtually via Google Hangouts even though they've been forced to stay home during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Ellis said he was particularly proud of how the message-board project came together, because students carried it out virtually at a time when many peers are in isolation and may need positive thoughts.
"Before the lockdown, I was in multiple clubs and I would stay after school almost every day," he said. "It felt like (the stay-at-home order) was a bad thing, but I realize not everything is gone.
"I know not everybody is great at reaching out when they need it. We've got to remind people to reach out to their friends and just remind people we're all going through this together."