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Compass Academy students talking about mental health stigmas

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Juniors at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls are raising awareness to stigmas surrounding mental health, through their 'More than a Stigma' projects.

It's all part of the school's humanities route, where students have to address real problems, says facilitator Rex Taylor.

"We're able to have a dialog about real problems, understand the difference between the stigma of a disorder, and the stigma of just using that disorder as a catchphrase," Taylor said. "And then how do you change that? How do you get people to stop using those words or be aware of the words they're using incorrectly? And so that's really been our conversation. All of our students have researched different disorders, and now they're taking it to the next level and creating a campaign."

About 30 students have been put into groups, and have to come up with their own campaigns, says facilitator Dusty Johnson.

"Poster campaigns, we've got one group here that is fly tying to sell flies to raise funds for mental health awareness and for suicide prevention," Johnson said. "We've got a video, we've got people that are coming up with 3D characters to go with it. We've got one group that's actually creating a safe space within the school. Altering our school and getting that to work out for them. We've got another group that's doing a web design."

Brisa Arizola says her group is going for a more emotional angle.

"I'm making a slide show for it, and I'm kind of going with both emotional and logical so that It goes their emotional side, and then I throw in a few facts in there as well," Brisa said. "My partner is making stickers so when people come and listen to our project, they can leave with something."

They'll also make a song to go along with the presentation.

Addison Willis and her group are going a different route.

"We decided to create some merchandise with some original designs and things like that to represent and kind of spread the word of More than a Stigma to raise awareness," Addison said.

Taylor says in the several years the project has been going on he's learned one big thing.

"One of the statistics is that less than 50% of diagnosed adults actually seek treatment, right? So there's a reality that this affects who you work with. This affects your family. This affects people in your lives that you may not be aware of," Taylor said. "And it allows a conversation to happen where all of a sudden it's OK to talk about it. It's OK to say, 'Yeah, I'm struggling. I have this.' And I think COVID put that into high gear, even more so. And so I think that coming out of COVID now the need for awareness, the need for treatment, the need for understanding what's going on in other people's lives and accommodating for that is now becoming a daily part of our world."

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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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