Chanhassen students use DECA project to talk about mental health

Business students at Chanhassen High School are encouraging others to talk openly about mental health issues.

CHANHASSEN, Minn. - Three seniors at Chanhassen High School want to stop the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Matthew Hove, Jake Maus and Grace Miller are all seniors and part of the business club DECA. Instead of working with a business for their DECA Creative Marketing Project, they chose mental health issues.

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"We wanted to impact the lives of the students at our school. So we thought it would be a cool opportunity to make a difference bigger than just a DECA project," Hove said. "We've just seen it be so prevalent in our own school and around us."

They came up with "The Yellow Umbrella Campaign" and started working on the project last fall.

"Yellow... that sort of signifies like optimism, confidence, emotional strength and then for umbrella, that's sort of a symbol of... it's a shield or protection. What we kind of came up with is it's shielding everyone from these emotional storms that they face on a day-to-day basis," Maus explained.

They first researched mental health and administered a survey at their school. The results revealed that nearly 70 percent of students said they're often or very often stressed out due to academics.

The group also found that smart phones and social media make it harder for students to disconnect from problems they may be facing at school.

"Back in the old days when you didn't have a phone with you, connected to you all the time, you could just leave all the bullies and all the nonsense... the expectations here at school," Miller said. "Now you get off the bus, you have your smart phone, you have people texting you and they can easily get in contact with you which I think causes a lot more anxiety and depression."

The group held a mental health awareness night during a January boys basketball game between Chanhassen and Chaska. Players and students wore yellow t-shirts from the campaign.
Matthew Hove

The trio came up with seven ways to help stop the stigma. They brought the recommendations to their principal and have already implemented a few of them. They held a mental health awareness night during a January boys basketball game between Chanhassen and Chaska. Players and students wore yellow T-shirts from the campaign. They've also helped promote at school the Crisis Text Line—a free, 24/7 support system for those in crisis. They chose to promote it after their survey revealed that 60 percent of the students at Chanhassen High School are most comfortable communicating through text message.

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The group also made a video about mental health that students will watch on Friday.

"We don't want this to end when DECA ends... We want people to know that we want to break that stigma," Maus said.

March 4-6, they will present their ideas during the state DECA competition.