The Mental Health Awareness Club Aims to Create a Safe Space for the La Salle Community

%22It+is+really+helpful+to+be+able+to+understand+what%27s+going+on%2C+and+that+you%27re+not+alone%2C%22+senior+Cameron+Nguyen+said.

Lukas Werner

“It is really helpful to be able to understand what’s going on, and that you’re not alone,” senior Cameron Nguyen said.

Kendall Whiteside, Assistant Editor

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, staying healthy not only physically but also mentally has been challenging for many, especially teenagers. As seniors Luke Herder and Cameron Nguyen endure mental health struggles of their own, they’ve gone the extra mile to help others as well through the Mental Health Awareness Club.

Herder and Nguyen are both of the club moderators for the Mental Health Awareness Club. While the club was in place when each of them came to La Salle, they joined as seniors, with a passion for the topic and a desire to inform others.

Nguyen said that this club holds additional significance during this time, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused many to practice social distancing and experience face-to-face interaction less often, if at all.

“[People] should really have a support group, and they should understand what’s going on [with themselves],” he said.

Although Herder and Nguyen did not want to go into extensive detail about what mental health related challenges they’re experiencing, they both understand that mental health is a complex issue that many people struggle with, especially due to the isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since neither students were the creators of the club, they reached out to the previous leader, alumni Annie Hoang, as they stepped into this new position. Herder connected with her and “discussed ideas and future plans for the club and any unfinished projects,” he said.

Although Nguyen feels passionate about mental health, he was not active in the club until this year. “I am sad that I wasn’t able to join because I was unaware of it,” he said. “But I am really glad that I am in it now and that I get to promote it and hopefully get it really going.” 

Looking ahead, Herder and Nguyen have positive intentions for the club, with hopes of providing a welcoming space for others within the community.

Herder said that he wants to “destigmatize ideas surrounding mental health and disprove many harmful stereotypes that many believe.”

Nguyen reiterated this thought, as he hopes to create an “open and nice space for everyone to be able to express themselves, rant… and whatever they need to talk about to get to a happy and comfortable mindset,” he said.

Nguyen strongly encourages anyone who needs a safe space to talk about anything to come to one of the meetings. “[It could] literally be the last week of school,” he said. “We would be open to it.”

Overall, Herder’s biggest goal for the club is to allow for human connection and relation around the topic of mental health. Specifically, he said that he wants others to experience “the kind of connection that pushes people to acknowledge the fact that we are all struggling in our own ways, and begin to recognize the ways in which we can contribute to each other,” Herder said.

This school year, it has been challenging for Herder and Nguyen to schedule meetings that each of them can attend. “We are trying to meet as much as we can, but with college [applications] for both Cameron and I, it becomes much more difficult,” Herder said.

With over 70 students involved in the club, Herder and Nguyen said they try to plan meetings that will result in a large turnout. 

Because mental health is an umbrella statement for several other important mental health-related struggles and issues, the club doesn’t talk about one specific topic. “We discuss [a variety] of topics with a focus on mental health,” Herder said.

To break the negative stigma surrounding mental health, Herder said that the one thing he wants others to do is be there for others. “We may never know what someone else is currently going through, and sometimes it seems impossible to verbalize how you’re feeling,” he said. “Through personal experience and shared stories, knowing that someone is going to be with you through it all means more than anything.”

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Nguyen echoed Herder’s statement. “Just having a support system where [you] can just rant, or just know you’re not alone, or at least be listened to is really amazing.”