School groups advocate for mental health awareness through various projects

Green Out theme organized for Sept. 24 varsity home football game

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photo courtesy of Bennet Bradley

Lancer Regiment members hold up their necklaces. One of them, senior Austin Hammann, was friends with both Thomas Bedell and Matthew McMillen. “I wear my necklace everyday, everywhere I go, even when I’m not at school,” Hammann said. “Personally, it means always remembering my friends, and I really like having the necklace as something to remember them.”

Jack Daws, Lancer Feed Editor

“During my time at Lafayette so far, I’ve seen our school lose some amazing people and it breaks my heart to know that others are struggling,” senior Liv Chanod, a varsity cheer captain, said.

When trying to decide on a cause to support this year, the captains quickly thought of mental health awareness.

“We thought about ways we could still keep school spirit in the loop with positivity and mental health and had a very successful conversation. We reached out to the rest of our team and they all loved the idea,” Chanod said.

The main way the team is supporting mental health awareness this year is supporting the Green Out football game on Sept. 24, since the color green is associated with mental health awareness. They chose the slogan for the night, ‘We Care, You Matter’.

“We hope that it really sticks with people. We hope they know that cheer is always with them and there for them,” Chanod said.

Chanod is also hoping to have a guest speaker talk to them about the subject and educate them even further on the topic.

“We really want to stay educated on mental health and I think a guest speaker is a great way to do that. They could help us know more about how to keep an eye on our own mental health and how to reach out to other people,” she said.

Mental health is something that Chanod personally wants to know more about so she can do more to help people.

“I’ve seen some people struggle, and it has opened my eyes to not only check on myself but others too. I always try my best to check up on my friends and even people who I am not close with to let them know I’m here and that they are not alone,” she said.

The team as a whole tries to discuss mental health together.

“It is something that we shouldn’t stay silent about. We are a team and we are here for each other. We try to make that clear to each other, as well as other people outside of the team,” Chanod said.

She believes supporting this cause has shown the team a new perspective on the issue and empowered them to make a difference.

“I feel my team’s eyes have been opened more about what is going on and what we can do about it. I’m so glad we decided to make something like this our cause, and I’m happy for everything we’ll be able to do. I am so lucky to have cheer and so is Lafayette because we are a team that is here for everyone,” Chanod said.

In order to promote the game, seniors Aashish Allu, Annie Gebhart, Grace Rigabar and James Vermeersch organized  a special video message.

The video has people from all different aspects of Friday night: football, Escadrille, cheer, band and ROTC. We want to emphasize that mental health is so much more than just one person or group of people, so we wanted to make it a community effort,” Allu said.

The necklaces were designed by Lancer Regiment to memorialize their friends, Thomas Bedell and Matthew McMillen “When we were coming up with ideas on what we wanted to make, someone suggested we do something with guitar picks since most of us own a guitar pick that was once Matt’s. We didn’t want to damage his so we went and bought a bunch and I drilled holes in them. We all got together at someone’s house and spent a couple of hours stamping Matt and Thomas’ initials into dog tags, then attached the guitar picks to them. Some of the tags also have a yellow ribbon around them,” Bennet Bradley said. “Because we had the guitar picks for Matt, we wanted something for Thomas as well, so we ordered trumpet charms to add to the necklaces.” (Jack Daws)

Allu believes the Green Out game is a sign of progress in the community.

“I think this game is really important because it shows growth in the community in talking about such a difficult topic. People are becoming more open to sharing how they feel and supporting one another. This needs to be celebrated and promoted,” he said.

In addition to participating in the Green Out game and promotional video, this year Lancer Regiment made necklaces designed to honor two former band members who passed away.

“All the seniors were talking about it, and we decided we wanted a way to symbolically take Matt (McMillen) and Thomas (Bedell) with all of us through the season that they, unfortunately, didn’t live to see,” senior Bennet Bradley said. “We wear them under our uniforms during every show and competition.”

The necklaces consist of dog tags with McMillen’s and Bedell’s initials on them, as well as guitar picks to honor McMillen and trumpet charms for Bedell. Some of the tags also include a yellow ribbon to represent suicide awareness.

“Both Matt and Thomas were amazing people. I’m passionate about the project because, more than anything, I wish I could’ve gotten to know them more,” Bradley said.

The band members have had many conversations about their mental health and even have a group chat to support each other, which specifically contains mental health concerns.

“This started during the pandemic to keep up with each other, but I believe that it has evolved into much more than that, becoming a place where we can pay attention to each other’s mental health and help people through things,” Bradley said.