Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there have been important debates and information generated around mental health. The world changed and changed rapidly with the advent of deadly disease, forcing less interpersonal contact between individuals and groups.
What can you do if you are struggling or struggling with the pandemic or anything else? What if your mental health is less healthy and you need help?
A group of students from Greeley-Evans School District 6 and their counselors hope an answer can be found on a bright, colorful mural next to a district building in downtown Greeley.
Since late April, the mural titled “Wings of Hope” has adorned a portion of the south wall of the Family Center at 1113 10th Avenue.
Created and designed before the pandemic, the mural was the brainchild of the District 6 Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC), a group of 4-year-old high school students with an interest in health issues affecting their communities. When SHAC was founded in 2017, mental health was identified as the main area of concern from a survey of approximately 1,000 high school students in the district.
“It lets people know they’re not alone,” said Neveah Salazar, a sophomore at Northridge High School. “They have friends or family they can turn to.”
The main mural design was created by SHAC graduate and founding member Mikyla Bowen in collaboration with her SHAC colleagues. The current board members are: Early College Academy, Greeley Central High, Greeley West High, Northridge and University.
The mural represents eight areas of strength that SHAC students want community members to value when they need it: family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, physical health, and mental health.
GREELEY, CO – MAY 19: Mikyla Bowen, a 2020 Northridge High School graduate, currently a student at Colorado State University and a former member of the Greeley-Evans School District 6 Student Health Advisory Council, talks about the mural designs she created at District 6 Nutritional Service Center in Greeley on May 19, 2021. Each mural panel represents part of a network of systems that support mental health, as described by the youth suicide prevention organization Sources of Strength. The mural will be on display in District 6 Family Center in downtown Greeley. (Alex McIntyre / Staff Photographer)
“It’s a summary that all of this is behind you, even when you don’t recognize it,” said Bowen, who recently finished his freshman year at Colorado State.
When SHAC was introduced, District 6 had an alliance with the Kaiser Permanente representative. Cuts in the health care system soon left her unable to work with the district, according to District 6 nutrition services welfare coordinator Rachel Hurshman, one of SHAC’s advisors.
District 6 social worker Jessie Caggiano, who works with high school students, joined Hurshman and her advisor Johanna Bishop, a wellness specialist and Hurshman’s nutrition partner, Caggiano, with her experience with a suicide prevention program called Sources of Strength.
Sources of Strength is a peer-based youth suicide prevention program based on the eight areas of need now hosted by SHAC. While the power sources break down these areas into a pie chart format, the wing mural contains an image to represent each of these areas.
“With these murals, we hope the conversation begins,” Hurshman said. “It simply came to our notice then. The hope is that you get the message about the sources of strength that you can take advantage of when you have problems. The power source program is the main part, and it’s about the good things in life that you can turn to when you’re in trouble. ”
The wings were chosen for the mural for their power and level of recognition. The students ’hope was and still is that if someone needs help they will find it from a source in any of these areas. If not from a family member or friend, perhaps from a mentor, boss or colleague.
The mural is in a large rectangular portion of the Family Center building overlooking the Greeley Fire Department. There are additional components of the wing mural, these eight areas of strength. Organizers aim to add them to the building, which extends westward, at the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Greeley artist Felisha Bustos guided the students through the process of creating the murals; continue the paper while working on the additional panels. When SHAC and its District 6 advisers decided to make the mural, they asked former Greeley Central professor and current Greeley Arts Legacy board chairman Ed Rogers how to proceed.
Rogers referred them to Bustos, a Greeley resident and board member of Greeley Arts Legacy. Bustos said in his advisory role that he did not contribute any artistic trick or experience to the project.
Instead, Bustos, with more than three decades of artistic experience, said he simply helped students bring their vision of the mural to life.
“His ideas, intuition and vision were more than enough,” Bustos said. “I trained them the best I could and they go there.”
GREELEY, CO – MAY 19: Artist Felisha Bustos, right, works with members of the Greeley-Evans School District 6 Student Health Advisory Board, Hazel Ibarra, who will just be a sophomore at Greeley Central High School, left, and Nevaeh Salazar, soon to be a high school sophomore at Northridge High School, downtown, while painting a section of a mural at Greeley’s District 6 Nutritional Services Center on May 19, 2021. Each mural panel represents part of a network of systems that support mental health as described by the youth suicide prevention organization Sources of Strength. The mural will be on display in District 6 Family Center in downtown Greeley. (Alex McIntyre / Staff Photographer)
Last week, Bustos worked with Hazel Ibarra, a sophomore from Salazar, Bowen, and Greeley Central, at the 6th Avenue District Service Center while painting a panel of a tree house that represented the area. of family life. Bowen also designed the mural of family life.
Ibarra, a 14-year-old who began her freshman year with SHAC, said the idea of helping other people was important to her and showed interest in contributing to the mural. Ibarra said the visibility of the mural, then, adds to the appeal and power of its purpose.
“It helps people be aware and talk about their problems,” he added. “I feel a little more aware of other things that happen (with people). They have their own problems.”