In an effort to end the stigma surrounding mental health, Edina Public Schools and the Edina Education Fund partnered to develop a campaign, Heal Together, to raise money to support the whole district. Prioritizing student support for over 8,600 youth, the district implemented its very first K-12 all-school assembly to launch the campaign and bring awareness to the community through a variety of stories, advice and lessons on how to navigate our changed world.
“We just want to recognize that every one of us struggles to some extent with mental health concerns and that is not a dirty word nor a sign of weakness,” director of student support services Jeff Jorgensen says. “All that it is, is a state of living and the more we talk about it and the more we learn how to manage it, the better off we are going to be.”
As a step in the Edina Education Fund’s two-year plan, co-chair Karen Gabler says the assembly was a way to introduce the conversation and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. “Our goal in doing that was to hopefully drive home the message to students and families that mental health is not someone else’s problem and doesn’t just happen to other people,” she says. “Mental health is a part of all of us.”
For the event, every classroom in the district showed a 15-minute video featuring superintendent John Schultz, corresponding principals, health professionals and students from a variety of ages speaking on how they care for their mental health and the resources that are available for them. High school students had an opportunity to hear from Edina resident and Vikings punter Britton Colquitt, and watched a performance from singer Kat Perkins, who was a finalist on NBC’s The Voice. Secondary students were addressed by former Edina graduate, comedian, writer and actor Tommy Ryman. “We wanted to do this to show that [mental health] is something that everyone of us has and needs to take care of,” Gabler says about the choice to include such a wide range of speakers in the assembly.
Prior to the pandemic, the Edina Education Fund had begun working with the district to implement accessible resources to meet the social and emotional needs of students. They brought in mental health and wellness professionals from Fraser, a Minnesota provider of mental health services, in every school across the district, hired a chemical health dependency therapist at the high school and developed a partnership Park Nicollet’s Growing Through Grief program to provide grief counselors in schools for students and their families. But the work does not stop there. With a goal of raising $200,000 for this campaign, the anticipated funds will go toward providing summer support staff, more mental health providers within the schools and district-wide staff training to meet the social and emotional needs of students. “It is not just about hiring more therapists for students, it’s about having multiple areas of support and increasing the degree of training of our existing staff to better serve the students in our community,” Jorgensen says.