Student Council focuses on mental health during The Big Give


Senad Besic

Student Council members discuss activities at a lunch meeting. Members chose The Cameron Carico +10 Foundation as the charity for The Big Give.

Kitarrah Mangra-Dutcher, Staff Writer

Mental Health Trainings

Mental health and well-being is not something that many people talk about, yet during recent years mental health trainings for teachers in the district have increased. “In the last five years there has been more attention paid to it then there had been in the past,” teacher Sue Cline said.

As reported by the National Institute of Mental Health, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental health begin around age 14. Over the span of high school, students will spend about 720 days in school with teachers while they will spend 740 days away. This means that for about half of their high school years students will be with teachers. “We are not qualified to assist them,” Cline said. “We are qualified to be an emergency contact and then to assist the kid to appropriate help.”

Information provided in the trainings depend on the speakers that are chosen to be brought in. “Typically it’s been somebody like a therapist that comes in and does a PowerPoint slide show type thing about signs to look for and that we are the gatekeepers for you guys,” teacher Kathy Comstock said.

Trainings are offered in mini-sessions through different organizations that teachers can choose to go to. “This past time there was somebody from the Youth Emergency Shelter Services there, providing some training about what services they offer,” guidance counselor Stephanie Guthrie. A session has also been done by a doctor from UnityPoint Health.

Due to her job and background, health teacher Jackie Sapp already knows about some of the things that are covered. “For someone who doesn’t have any background, I think it’s great,” Sapp said.

Most sessions are provided throughout the school year because they happen during professional development days. “There is a possibility for providing training ahead of time like at the beginning of a school year for just an overview of mental health and signs to look for,” Guthrie said.

“We have had in-services, but are they required that we have to go and get a certificate? No,” teacher Kathy Comstock said. Out of the four staff interviewed they all agreed that mental health trainings should be required.

Teachers have had these sessions at least once for the past three years. “We have had at least a session if not more on a similar topic every year since then (referring to the deaths of Cameron Carico and Spenser Nelson). It wasn’t like people all of the sudden paid attention and then they stopped paying attention again,” Cline said.

The Big Give

Every winter Student Council donates to a charity through “The Big Give.” The Big Give collects money through a variety activities such as restaurant nights, a dodge ball game, a talent show and other activities. If students pay for the results from the compatibility test that was taken during advisory Jan. 21 that money will also go to the chosen charity. This year the charity is the Cameron Carico +10 (CC+10) Foundation, started in honor of Cameron by his cousins Michael Cameron, Tim Conley, and Justin Andersen.

The organization’s website says, “The goal of the organization is to promote happy and healthy students and families in central Iowa through suicide prevention and mental health education.” Board manager and Cameron Carico’s mother, Dawn Carico said the family was humbled that Student Council chose their organization. “It means a great deal to us that Cameron’s classmates believe that suicide prevention and mental health education is important in our communities and schools,”  she said.

The organization’s name came from antics when the family was together. “During their golf outings the older cousins would keep track of the silly things Cameron would say or do,” Carico said. “They would give a -10 or +10 depending on what he did.  The meaning of the foundation is that +10 is a positive and that helping others that struggle with mental illness, depression or addiction is something that we all should support,” Carico said.

Each year student council members suggest charities which are narrowed down and then a final one is voted on. “A lot of the seniors really wanted to do that charity just because Cameron was in their grade,” junior Meredith Campidilli, co chair of the Big Give Committee, said.

The CC+10 sponsored two youth mental health first aid trainings last fall. “The premise of the training is that teachers need to be able to recognize and approach students in order to be able to get them to accept and seek professional support of mental illness,” Carico said.

The CC+10 Foundation board members will vote on how they use the funds that they receive from The Big Give. “We would like to continue sponsoring this type of training so most likely the donations will be used to support that goal,” Carico said.