North Polk starts up their own Stomp Out Stigma Group

Sophie Hoffmeier, JP student writer

Recently, students were sent a survey of interest in mental health advocacy, and given the chance to learn what Stomp Out Stigma is really about. The program has groups across many schools in Iowa, and has been working towards the goal of the normalization of talking about mental health in schools. 

Several students were interested in participating in this group, and so a brief meeting was held for those that could attend on Oct. 14. Students and teachers were informed about all things Stomp Out Stigma and how their group will help the high school environment here at North Polk.

“[Stomp Out Stigma] seemed like a group that would benefit a lot of people,” senior Emilee Mapes said. “Many people need support and to know that they’re not alone, so I wanted to be a part of that.”

“As someone who’s struggled with mental health personally and seen others struggle, it made me really happy to see the school making an effort to help those who may need someone to reach out to,” senior Trinity Reichart said. “I love connecting with others and being someone they know they can go to whenever they might need for whatever issue, regardless of how big or small.”

Many of the students who joined the group say that having a Stomp Out Stigma group would have benefited them during middle school and in their first few years at high school. 

“I went through some bad times and rough patches where having a safe place would have helped a lot,” Reichart said, “I had a negative mindset about mental health, and thought that I had to struggle alone and that I would be a burden for asking for help. A group like this would have helped me realize sooner that there’s nothing wrong with not being okay.”

“I do think that having a group like this would have benefited me,” Mapes said, “I may not have joined if we had it earlier, but the things the group would have done for the students would have helped me a lot.”

The group’s main goal is to eliminate the prejudice of talking about mental health in schools, many teens tend to struggle greatly with speaking up about their well-being.

“A lot of students don’t know what to do, or they’re afraid to ask for help when it comes to mental health,” Mapes said, “I think [talking about mental health] needs to be normalized in the school environment.”

“Overall, I would love to see the stigma about mental health become less of an issue. I hope this group brings more awareness and light to everyday struggles that may be impacting you in ways you don’t realize,” Reichart said. “I would also like to see awareness brought to different forms of self care and positive coping mechanisms.”

Even though the group has just recently formed, they are already incredibly passionate about helping their students feel more comfortable with speaking their mind and talking about their mental health.

“A school environment can be very hostile and unaccepting. Bringing attention to the importance of mental health and breaking stigmas would definitely make the environment more friendly and open,” Reichart said, “There seems to be an aura of fear around speaking up about mental health, but once it’s done more people will see that it’s okay to reach out and ask for help.”

North Polk can certainly look forward to some amazing things from the Stomp Out Stigma members!

“I hope that Stomp Out Stigma will make our school a safe place for every student here,” said Mapes. “I also want to be able to help others get through the tough days and give them the support they need!”