During Mental Health Awareness Month – and every month! – National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) honors those who address mental health issues in their community. I am proud to see South Tahoe High School students, educators and Lake Tahoe Unified School District staff pilot the Brain Health Leadership Club this year to increase mental health leadership and awareness on campus.

The Brain Health Leadership Club's goal is to equip students interested in fostering emotional wellness on campus with practical brain health science. Club members work to help raise awareness with their peers, and participate in career planning opportunities in the mental health field.

From 10th graders helping classmates understand the importance of taking initiative to help one another, to 12th graders tackling Mental Health Awareness on campus as their senior project, the club has made a true impact on the STHS campus:

Increased understanding of brain health professions, job outlook, salary outlook, and educational requirements.

Establishing a culture where genetic pre-disposition to addiction and mental health issues are understood.

Gaining an understanding of mental health disorders and learning tips for daily wellness.

Science-based approach to learning about the risks of smoking, drinking, marijuana and other drug on brain development.

Broad awareness of mental health issues through student-driven outreach

Resume and college application strengthening, articulating club experience.

Enhancement of leadership skills.

Club participants provided curriculum ideas to their teachers across most subjects to leverage during May's Mental Health Awareness month.

Students including those interested in pursuing science-oriented professions related to brain health such as: Neuro-science, Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology, Social Work, Crisis Intervention Leaders, Nursing, Genetics, Chemistry and researchers that work towards targeting specific improvements in brain health. Students suggested a host of professionals they would like to hear from, which resulted in guest visits from a clinical psychologists, El Dorado County Crisis Intervention specialists, psychiatrists, and more.

The Brain Health Leadership Club has discussed the availability of options in colleges for those living with mental health conditions to receive support (i.e. disability resource centers and select scholarships). Club participants were provided printed examples of forecasted job outlooks by job titles including average salaries, and discussed the education needed to attain those jobs.

Made possible by support from Barton Health, Soroptimist of South Lake Tahoe, and Soroptimist of Tahoe Sierra and private donors, the Brain Health Leadership Club has received recognition by the NAMI California. May and Mental Health Awareness Month is a special time to recognize those who work to make an impact on the mental well-being for youth in our community, and the students and educators that work to increase awareness.

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