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The Aquilian

“Get Over The Hump” club addresses teen mental health


I walked into the library classroom to see a group of students huddled around a table with an assortment of breakfast foods. Bagels, donuts, waffles, snacks and juice were on display, as well as a bowl of stress balls.

Students are always offered breakfast at the club meetings.

I grabbed some orange juice and sat down; relaxing music played in the background, and the projector showed a video of a flyover of Hawaii and other breathtaking landscapes. After everyone settled and talked for a bit, the club founder Jacques Pelletier, senior, called everyone together and asked people to share some positives and negatives about their week. These varied from seniors talking about college acceptance letters to students complaining about the speech contest later that day. No matter what each student shared, the student sharing had the full attention and support of the room.

The “Get Over the Hump” club, started this year by Pelletier and moderated by religion teacher Brendan Hartnett, is a simple idea that’s had quite the positive effect on the Gonzaga community. It is not much, just a small group that meets in the library before school for some breakfast provided by the club, but it serves as a nice place for Gonzaga students to take a step away from the stress of school if only just for a moment.

“It gives students a time and place where they can enjoy free breakfast and relax and decompress in the middle of the week because nothing is better than a free breakfast,” Pelletier said.

Students had nothing but praise for the club, with many finding it a great way to prepare themselves for the school day.

Students meet in the library before school for these club meetings; the students share about their life and help process some of their stresses and offer encouragement to each other.

Pelletier’s club becomes part of a broader effort from Gonzaga to address mental health and reduce stress. Some of these attempts to help students have included the “Toilet Paper” signs in bathrooms offering advice for potentially struggling students and the new experimental schedule, which put more emphasis on providing a break for students during the day as well as splitting up work between classes. The Eagles out of Darkness club has also made an effort in supporting a variety of mental health organizations.

These efforts come at a time where mental health concerns are more prevalent than ever. About one in five young people suffer from some form of mental illness, and the number of depression and anxiety diagnoses with young people have seen an increase in recent years. According to Polaris Teen center, 50% of mental health issues are established by the age of 14, and 75% by age 24, and there is a nearly two-fold increase in mood disorders from 13 to 18, from 8.4% to 15.4%.

Special attention has been put on men’s mental health recently, as well. Suicide rates among men are four times as high as women in America. Despite this, they’re still far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women. Much of this is due to a stigma surrounding men and boys that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, and an effort is being made to break the stigma surrounding men and them having to keep their emotions under wraps. With Gonzaga being an all-boys school and with the pressure cooker the school can be at times, this movement is very relevant to us and provides the school with an opportunity to bring special attention to this issue.

Clubs like Pelletier’s and the Eagles out of Darkness, the toilet paper signs, and teachers like Ms. Caitlin Farley provide avenues for students to talk about potential substance abuses, such as vaping, without facing immediate consequences. The school’s most recent prayer service on Ash Wednesday even collected money for mental health organizations, such as the True Sioux Hope Foundation and Active Minds Charity.

When I take in all that has been initiated this year to raise awareness, I realize that Gonzaga seems to be moving in the right direction in dealing with mental health. Hopefully, our school can be a place where no one feels ashamed to share how they feel and where students get the help they need.

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