Community Highlights: The Mental Health Awareness Club

Consider this an introduction to the latest feature of the Spotlight Section. Our new Community Highlights Segment will spotlight those who make a substantial impact on the community, whether at school or out in the world. Starting off our series is our spotlight piece on the Mental Health Awareness Club, which works to advocate for a lesser-known but very significant issue.

Leigh Jacobson

Spotlight Editor

One of Milken’s more recent and most impactful clubs is the Mental Health Awareness Club, founded by co-President Zach Oshin ’12, Leigh Evans ’12, and Zach Ungar ’12.

According to co-president Oshin, the club was founded because lack of mental health awareness and sensitivity is a prominent problem worldwide.

“It’s something that can affect a lot of people, even students at Milken, and we thought it just needed people to bring the issues to life,” he says.

End The R Word
An example of the "End the R-Word" bracelet sold around campus. Photo by Leigh Jacobson.

Inspired by this and a family history of mental health, Oshin and his fellow co-presidents have valiantly set out to eradicate the use of the word “retard” on the Milken campus though their strong “End the R-Word” campaign. By putting up posters around school, and selling “End the R-Word” bracelets for $1 each, the club has raised around $200 for the Special Olympics.

“We thought it would be a good way to raise money for an organization that can really change someone’s life, and help raise awareness about the fact that that even though they may seem harmless, words can really do a lot of damage,” Oshin says.

“People joke out of ignorance, and they naively or defensively brush off scolding,” says Evans. “We need to create a supportive environment at school. We’ve already made great headway on our R-word campaign, and hopefully it’s just a sneak preview of what’s to come.”

Additionally, the club is soon to be a recognized high school chapter of the Active Minds Organization (http://www.activeminds.org/), and will be working with new school counselor Ms. Shauna Donfeld, and their current faculty advisor, Ms. Monica Daranyi, to continue to promote awareness on the Milken campus.

“We can speak for people who can’t speak for themselves,” says co-president Evans.  “Whether they’re ashamed, embarrassed, or unsure if they have a problem, we are here to help and encourage them. Our spectrum of education covers everything from autism to bipolar disorder, to depression, and our goal is to eliminate the stigma surrounding each kind of mental health issue. But right now we want to focus on educating students at Milken about issues that affect their best friends, peers, teachers, and others right under their noses.”

The club, comprised mainly of juniors with a smattering of members from other grades, is about 20-25 people big. Heads up: they meet every other Friday at lunch in room 4-104. They’re looking for new members, so if you are interested in joining, contact any of the aforementioned co-presidents.

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