Students organize third annual mental health awareness walk, raises money for organizations across southern Arizona

Published: Oct. 14, 2023 at 11:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - With the events in the Middle East and worldwide causing stress for southern Arizonans, Vail residents are coming together to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

And to do that, they’re walking!

Mica Mountain High School hosts the Mental Health Awareness 5 Mile Walk to raise awareness and money for mental health organizations across Southern Arizona.

The school’s Thunder Awareness Club organized the event. This is their third year holding the walk. And it all started with the students.

“Students came to us and asked if we could start a club that raises awareness on mental health on our campus,” said Matt Penlane, a teacher at Mica Mountain HS.

“The walk was just a byproduct of what the kids came up with and what they thought would get us out with the community, and to make sure people know the issues that high school students face surrounding mental health.”

The students also came up with the idea of a walk versus a different activity to implement movement, proven to help lift people’s moods.

“It was very intentional,” said Gretchen Stickney, a student achievement teacher at Mica Mountain.

“The students wanted to do something physical because many of them and the ways they handle stress, depression and anxiety, is to move their body.”

The event also served as a way for people to connect at a time when violence and destruction are taking hold in the Middle East.

With the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, along with general stress and everyday worries, teachers at the walk say this event creates a safe space to express how you’re feeling fully.

“It’s us walking next to each other and talking with each other. It doesn’t always have to be these heavy topics, or it could be heavy topics,” said history teacher Danielle Neumann. “But being there for one another and being ready to lend a shoulder to somebody, whether they just need to vent for a second, or to really help support them in that moment.”

If you would like to donate money for mental health, you can send a check written out to the Thunder Awareness Club at Mica Mountain High School.

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