Strolling the halls of Herrick Middle School, passersby may notice new posters gracing the walls. “Reasons to Choose Life,” reads the first. “Reasons to Get Help,” “Reasons to Love Yourself,” “Reasons to Love Life” and “Reasons to be a Good Friend” read the others. Each poster lists several positive reasons.
Herrick eighth graders Maddie Redpath and Jane Theisen created the posters to spread a positive message about mental health with their peers.
“We know people who have dealt with mental health issues, and we wanted to let them know that they are loved and not alone,” Jane said. “I feel like there’s been a spike in suicides in the area, and we felt like we needed to talk about it in a positive way. Personally, mental health is not talked about enough. Many people who struggle with mental health issues feel like it’s not okay, like they’re not normal.”
“So we wanted to talk about it more,” added Maddie. “We wanted to start a conversation, and let people know that no matter if you’re struggling with a physical health issue or a mental health issue, it’s okay, we’re here for you. You’re not alone.”
With School Counselor Steven Gross’s encouragement, the girls brainstormed ideas to raise positive awareness about mental health to their peers. They decided to create posters that offered simple reminders.
“We really connected personally with this project,” Maddie said. “When creating the posters, we asked ourselves what we would want to read if we saw the poster hanging in the hallway. What would motivate us to want to love life more? We used this as inspiration.”
When the girls finished the posters, both Mr. Gross and the Herrick administration were impressed.
“These posters promote a healthy message for middle schoolers,” said Herrick Principal Matt Neustadt. “Middle school is a time of transition and confusion for many students as they enter adolescence. These posters complement Herrick’s social-emotional learning curriculum and remind students that no matter what, they have help.”
They added the posters to Herrick’s student support website and displayed them throughout the school. Since then, the posters have generated positive conversations among students, and one poster was even shared on the VSCO photography social media app.
“Not many people know that we created the posters, so it’s interesting to hear conversations about them. I’ve only heard good things,” said Maddie.
Both girls intend to continue this type of outreach as they enter Downers Grove North next school year, citing both the ELITE and Operation Snowball programs as areas of interest. While reflecting on the project’s process, the girls said that they learned a little bit about themselves as well.
“As we brainstormed and wrote down all the reasons to be happy and to feel loved, it affected me too. I was like, ‘wow, yeah, that is a reason to be happy! I really should be grateful for that!’” Maddie said.
“It made me realize all the little things in life that are good,” Jane added.