Every Mind Matters creates space for honest mental health conversations


Sabrina Bohn

Sitting together in the front of the class, junior Katie Solodar and sophomore Arden Dickson discuss strategies to deal with mental illness at the second official meeting of Every Mind Matters. They created the club to give students a place to talk about their struggles and ask for help. “Our main goal is to give students a community where we can talk about mental health because a lot of times we don’t have a platform where we can talk about it safely,” Dickson said. “We really wanted to provide a better environment for students, and discussion based activities will help with that.”

The idea of a club where students can shed stigmas surrounding mental health and freely discuss mental illness began budding in junior Katie Solodar’s mind last year. With the help of sophomore Arden Dickson, they were able to get this idea off the ground by creating the club Every Mind Matters.

“I’d always had the idea in the back of my mind for a mental health club that would be an easier space for people to come and get help so that their friends aren’t feeling the burden of being the only one they’re talking to,” Solodar said. “I experienced that with some people in my life, and I couldn’t convince them to talk to an adult. I wanted to have a place where they could at least talk with more people, and we could all collectively help each other through all that we know and have grown from. We can all find some balance together.”

Latin teacher Tom Herpel had helped Dickson when she was stressed in the past, so she felt he would be a good candidate to sponsor the club.

“There are so many kids in this school that have so many diverse needs and interests, and there are tons of clubs at this school, but they all cater to a different type of student,” Herpel said. “I think in particular Every Mind Matters can bring the needs of almost all of the kids at the school because everyone has stresses in their life, everyone is dealing with something, and I think this group gives a great foundation to be able to come up with tactics to deal with your tough lives.”

Some people say ‘It’s all in your head,’ and yes, it is in my head, but why should that mean that it isn’t real or valid?”

— junior Katie Solodar

Whether or not you are dealing with mental illness, Dickson feels that this club can be beneficial for everyone.

“Mental health is important because everyone either knows someone that struggles with mental health or just struggles with stress in general. A lot of it feeds into the same thing because one thing leads to another and then you’re struggling,” Dickson said. “Even if you’re not struggling with mental illness, it’s important to know how you can help others, and a lot of times we’re clueless on how to help others who are struggling; it’s hard to know what to say in those situations, so we really want to be there as a resource for students.”

Having dealt with mental illness herself, Solodar hopes that her experiences can benefit other students, especially due to the difficulty of talking to adults at times.

“West needs to have a place where students help students rather than where adults help students because that can be scary and it’s hard to accept that step that you need adult intervention. Having this group of willing peers that are advertising that they are here to help will hopefully make it a lot easier to get help,” Solodar said. “I have found a lot of coping mechanisms that have worked for myself and others and I know how far I’ve come since freshman year. I think that I am a credible source on having mental illness and knowing people who have a mental illness, and I try to use that not as the rule but as examples to help other people.”

An important aspect of Every Mind Matters is that it is discussion based, allowing students to express their feelings and difficulties.

“Talking it out helps you feel less alone because a lot of mental illness lies. Some people say ‘It’s all in your head,’ and yes, it is in my head, but why should that mean that it isn’t real or valid? Those feelings are real, but they misconstrue a lot of things that we feel and can definitely be isolating,” Solodar said. “The more we talk about it, the more we can live better lives and know that we are not alone and that so many other people are struggling just like us. Dealing with any of these things alone is not healthy for anyone. If we work as a group and as a team it becomes a lot easier.”

Along with group discussions, Solodar plans to spread awareness about different forms of mental illness.

“I want to cover a bunch of different types of mental illnesses so that people are educated on what they are, how to spot them, how to know if you have one, how to know if you’re friend has one, how to help yourself and each other and how to go from there so that we can be equipped with that knowledge when those problems arise,” Solodar said. “The root of ignorance is the lack of knowledge. The more we learn the more we can be helpful and kind to others. We have to learn about it in order to help each other and deal with mental illness in healthy ways.”

The more we learn the more we can be helpful and kind to others. We have to learn about it in order to help each other and deal with mental illness in healthy ways.”

— junior Katie Solodar

In the future, the club hopes to host guest speakers who are experts in mental health as well as fundraise for Every Child’s Hope. “Since Every Child’s Hope is a really big part of the West High community, we really want to fundraise. It has a really big impact on our region,” Dickson said. “Guest speakers can give students a resource because I feel like when you’re being told something by someone, it sinks in a lot deeper rather than just, ‘here’s a handout, go and do it yourself.’ I feel like if we’re being helped in the situation through a speaker, it’s gonna hit harder and it’s gonna help a lot of students.”

Having worked with the Kumar family, the school district and Missouri state senator Jill Schupp regarding mental health reform in schools, sophomore and club member Tyler Kinzy feels that a club focused on mental health is a step in the right direction for the school.

“The initiatives regarding mental health education reform include things like implementing mindful practice and changing our health curriculum in schools,” Kinzy said. “It also is very important to have these grassroots efforts because things sometimes aren’t as successful when it’s being forced from the top down. To have the students themselves taking the initiative here and working towards this reform is definitely encouraging.”

As the club continues to grow, Solodar and Dickson hope that the awareness of mental illness spreads, and the stigma surrounding asking for help diminishes.

“I hope that we, as a group, will make people more comfortable and willing to talk about it because a lot of the time, the people that are struggling don’t want to come forward because they’re scared or it’s just a very uncomfortable topic,” Dickson said. “I really want to make sure that we have a group or community at West High outside of a clique that is willing to talk about it and be there for everyone.”