Going green — CCS raising awareness around mental health

Published 12:01 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Chilton County Schools are raising awareness for mental health through fundraising and activities with the help of Mental Wellness Coordinator Lindsey Payton. Payton is nearing the end of her first school year in the newly-created position for the school district, and she is ending it with the biggest month in her line of work — Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Payton is also tweaking her approach to push more foundational wellness over just mental health, as foundational wellness brings health to the mind, body and soul.

“If we can get all of those things taken care of, we can be foundational well,” Payton said.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a nation-wide event, and Payton wanted to make an impact in her role during the important month. She planned numerous activities for schools in Chilton County including schools flying green flags that say “You Are Not Alone” with a green ribbon resembling mental health, rallying the county to wear green on Fridays and selling green glitter face tattoos at schools each Friday. Schools also created their own fundraisers like Hat Day for $1, with all of the money raised by the schools going towards providing free counseling.

“I tried to think of a way we could (raise awareness), and make it unique county-wide,” Payton said. “Schools have been sending in photos of their students getting tattoos, and one school even ran out of tattoos and asked for more. They have had a lot of fun with it, and we have had a lot of fun with it too. I love seeing support from administrators and district-level staff.”

May 13-17 was the biggest week of events during the month of awareness, and schools sent in photos of their students and staff wearing green to be entered into a drawing for a free staff breakfast. Payton’s newsletter for May was specifically about foundational wellness, and statistics that were included stated that one in six students will suffer from a mental health diagnosis.

Also, in the newsletter, to celebrate their efforts in supporting students and their families, details were included about the partnership between CCS, Payton and the Peach Jam to host a Foundational Wellness Family Night on June 7. The night is open to all residents, but Payton is strongly encouraging all Chilton County students and their families to attend the free concert that starts at 6 p.m. with live music from Rhett Walker.

“I have been very encouraged, and of course when you start something new you have little anxieties about wanting people to support your cause, but I feel like our county has come together,” Payton said. “Creating awareness and making it a very public thing makes those students who are suffering from mental health feel included, and they do not feel alone. It also helps students and staff who may be having feelings they are not comfortable with feel more comfortable talking or reaching out to someone to let them know something is going on, and they need to talk.”

Payton hopes to grow Mental Health Awareness Month in Chilton County year by year to include businesses and more.