Senior Gokul Venkatachalam and sophomore Tyler Kinzy address mental health concerns at the state-level


Kathryn McAuliffe

Sophomore Tyler Kinzy and senior Gokul Venkatachalam converse as they review a document. The two were inspired to pursue mental health activism after alumni Haran Kumar passed away June 15. "There were definitely some nerves when I first met Senator Schupp in person, especially with this being my first time getting involved in the political process," Kinzy said. "That uncertainty I felt quickly dissipated when I reminded myself how fortunate I am to be represented by such a great advocate for mental health initiatives."

After losing alumni Haran Kumar who battled depression, senior Gokul Venkatachalam and sophomore Tyler Kinzy contacted State Senator Jill Schupp.

“We are working with Jill Schupp to try and improve mental health access and have more mental health curriculums in schools,” Venkatachalam said.

According to Mental Health America, one in five people suffer from a mental health condition in the U.S., but only 40 percent receive treatment.

“I think everyone is aware, we just need to do something to reduce the amount of people suffering from depression and anxiety,” Venkatachalam said.

Practices like meditation help with mental health because it relieves stress according to Harvard Health.

“I think we need to look back into things like suicide prevention hotlines, and even though they are a great resource, we need to address what leads to that point,” Kinzy said. “A lot of the time more proactive measures will detect and fix mental health issues in earlier stages.”

After the loss of Kumar, both Venkatachalam and Kinzy knew they had to do something to make sure more families do not suffer.

“Haran was someone who meant so much to this community,” Kinzy said. “He affected both me individually, anyone who knew him and people who didn’t know him because he was somebody who so deeply cared about not only himself but advancing the well-being of others.”

Schupp created suicide prevention campaigns, to advocate for mental health around the U.S. Her advocacy has been recognized nationally for mental health advancement and signing the SB 646 into law. The law requires that Missouri school districts adopt youth suicide prevention, intervention and postvention policies and encouraging suicide prevention training for licensed educators statewide.

“She [Schupp] has been so receptive. I have met her before and she is one of the good members of our government. She doesn’t like lobbying, she avoids all that. She is a good clean candidate, and a good person in power, who wants to actually do good things,” Venkatachalam said.

No significant changes have been made yet, but their main hope is for mental health curriculum in schools, and more opportunities for kids and adults to get the help they need.

“Our goal is to implement more comprehensive programs like mental health screening and mindfulness practice into every school,” Kinzy said. “All of our lives have been affected by mental health conditions, regardless of political beliefs or party affiliations. It’s encouraging to have the support of so many people who are all working towards the same cause.”