By RONNIE FUENTES
Mental health can be overlooked in the homes of minorities or teenagers with elderly parents.
Some students are raised to believe that their feelings are a figment of their imagination, and they are taught to fear treatment and reject help.
The truth is that the mental health has an impact on how we think, feel, and behave on a daily basis. It influences how we communicate with others and how we deal with stress. These days, it is especially important in high school to break the stigma and promote mental health resources.
Manteca High senior Daizy Espinoza is doing just that. She and her peers in Leadership have created an opportunity for students to break away from their stressors and concerns.
Wellness Week at Manteca High begins on Monday, March 20, and it will feature a lunchtime activity each day to support mental health and educate students on the resources available to them.
“What motivated me the most to start Wellness Week at Manteca High School was the lack of knowledge students across campus have about the mental health resources that we offer,” Espinoza said. “Mental health awareness teaches students that it is okay to share our experiences and concerns that we have about mental health issues. We must reduce the stigma around mental health and teach our peers around us that it is okay to reach out for help, there is always someone there to listen and I hope to inform our campus about the multiple resources there are out there for them.”
Wellness Week bloomed in the 2021-22 scholastic year with the help of Activities Director Stephanie Hjelmstad and the Leadership class. Receiving everyone’s support to kick off this event has been a great gift to Espinoza and her idea to spread mental health awareness on campus. Wellness Week is a week-long event with a different activity each day.
“I believe it was an event that was always meant to be kicked off by someone, but I am incredibly grateful that I was able to kick it off,” said Espinoza. “I began last year with a week of peaceful lunchtime activities, including yoga, a wall of positivity, handing out healthy snacks and making crafts, and bringing puppies onto campus which I believe was able to bring a lot of stress relief and mindfulness to our students.”
This event needs lots of dedication to reach the ultimate goal – making mental health a priority on campus. Wellness Week takes a lot of planning and recruiting people to partake in this week-long event.
Thanks to Hjelmstad, this idea was brought to life.
“(Hjelmstad) had the idea and we brought it to life,” Espinoza said. “Our entire Leadership class was incredible in assisting during our lunchtime activities, promoting the event, and really being the first to make it incredibly unique and special.”
Aside from kicking off Wellness Week, Espinoza is also in the Leadership class as the Associated Student Body (ASB) Vice President. She is the student board member, representing Manteca High, and holds the following positions and memberships: Black Student Union (BSU), fundraiser chair; and California Scholarship Federation (CSF), member. Being involved in many extracurriculars that promote change and equal representation has led Espinoza to want to go above and beyond for her school and peers.
Hjelmstad has been Espinoza’s mentor since her sophomore year. Seeing Espinoza grow into the leader she is today has made Hjelmstad recognize the impact she has in her community, whether that be on campus or beyond.
“It has been wonderful to watch her grow,” Hjelmstad said of Espinoza, “and develop as a young woman and as a leader these past three years.”
Students all over the district do not have access to mental health resources, but luckily Manteca High students do not have to worry. Espinoza has helped pave the way for students to receive peace and mindfulness through activities that can stimulate one’s brain.
“Wellness Week is important to me for multiple reasons. I know a lot of people in my personal life who have struggled with their mental health and built up the strength to reach out for help,” said Espinoza. “I too have my fair share of experiences with mental health difficulties, and I always knew I wanted to advocate the importance of a healthy mental state for everyone. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy and feel loved and worthy of who they truly are.”
Since Espinoza is graduating and moving on to the next chapter in her life, she has hand-picked someone to carry on this event. With careful consideration, Espinoza has chosen Tessa King, a student who has proven herself worthy of being able to handle this charge.
“When I had found out that Daizy had chosen me to take over this event, I was beyond excited,” King said. “The feeling of someone you respect and look up to, picking you to takeover such an important event on the campus is an honor. Accomplishing and reaching out to the campus to make known of the importance of mental health is going to be my top priority, as it was Daizy’s.”