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Ronan students learn about mental health

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News from Amy Miller Ronan School District

RONAN — Ronan Middle School students participated in the first ever RMS Volleyball Tournament for Mental Health on Friday, March 18. The day-long event coordinated by RMS counselors Kristen Desjarlais and Tammy Young was an opportunity for students, teachers, parents, and community members to come together for mental health awareness.

“The idea for the event started from our Signs of Suicide program” said Young. “We wanted to find a fun and engaging way to bring parents and community members together to raise awareness about mental health issues that impact our students. The ultimate goal was to help families connect to resources within the community.”

Students in grades five through eight had a chance to volunteer to play in the volleyball tournament on randomly assigned teams, while parents were invited to watch. As a half-time event during the tournament, grade-level teams of four students and one parent faced off in a mental health trivia competition. At the end of each grade-level volleyball tournament, the championship student team faced off with a staff volleyball team.

When students weren’t watching or playing volleyball, they visited booths set up by local mental health and wellness agencies to complete a Passport to Wellness. The Teens Emotional Awareness (TEA) group, a youth-led group through the MSU Flathead Reservation Extension Office, presented a booth on mental and physical health and coping skills. CSKT Reason to Live Native covered suicide awareness while local dieticians and nurses from Tribal Health educated students about healthy eating and the dangers of consuming too much sugar. At the Parenting Montana booth, students learned about the dangers of substance abuse. Lake County 4-H discussed ways to have fun by exploring interests and learning new things. The booths stayed open into the evening so parents and community members could visit during the annual Spring Sports Dodgeball Tournament fundraiser.

Student winners of the volleyball tournament earned a championship t-shirt. Grades six and eight won a pizza party for their halftime mental health trivia competition victories. Gift baskets donated by Reason to Live Native and the CSKT Substance Abuse Prevention Program were given to adult winners of the trivia competition, and to students whose Passport to Wellness tickets were selected in a random drawing.

“This event was really a labor of love that was rooted in connection and education,” said Desjarlais. “As a counseling team, we always feel that it is necessary to educate our students and families on our community and the resources it provides. We are seeing an increase within the school system of students who need mental health support. We also know that many of our families do not realize what is available and how to access information to help their child. We wanted to create an event that was first and foremost fun, but would also have lasting impact.”

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