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NFL-sponsored grant brings mental health program to WMA

NFL-sponsored grant brings mental health program to WMA

Just like physical health, every person has mental health. Why, though, is it so common to talk about physical health but uncommon to talk about mental health?

#Samehere, a global mental health movement, gave three presentations to students and faculty at Wilbraham & Monson Academy Nov. 15-16, with an emphasis on normalizing conversations surrounding mental health.

The Academy was one of just 10 schools in the country to receive a grant sponsored by the National Football League. Former Super Bowl champion Chukky Okobi joined company founder Eric Kussin at the Academy.

WMA School Counselor Tess Presnal, recognizing the need for a school-wide discussion about mental health, particularly during COVID-19, applied for the grant.


Ms. Presnal on why she applied for the grant: “I thought this was a great opportunity. Last year it became really clear that we were lacking community time together and lacking with any mental health programing because of the pandemic. I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring things together and bring mental health back to the discussion. For all of us, just like physical health, normalizing mental health is important.”

Ms. Presnal on what she thought of the presentations: “It was great to hear both of their stories. It also didn’t sound like something that was abnormal or different. They normalized the conversation and normalized that we all go through this. I thought the message that not one in five have a mental health illness, but it’s five in five that have mental health. Just like everyone has physical health, we all have mental health. We have high points and low points, and that’s normal. That’s so important to understand, especially in those teenager years.”  

Mr. Kussin on what he hopes the students took away from the assemblies: “I hope the challenges that we all face are something that’s part of the human experience. Instead of looking at mental health in a binary way – that there are sick people and healthy people – we look at it as everyone is on the same team and we’re all going to face different challenges at different times. But because of that, if we recognize that in each other, not only does it make us feel like we’re not alone, but that you’re a part of everyone.”

Mr. Okobi on his message: “(There’s a belief among many high school students) that they don’t have any control over how they feel. One of my biggest purposes in life is to empower people and show them they do (have control). We don’t know what we don’t know, so because a high school student has limited experiences, it’s easy for them to think they don’t have a choice or they’re not in control of their life. But understanding their thoughts and feelings are on the inside and nobody else has ever felt their pain or their joy that there are aspects they can take control of in the immediate so they can seek the help or assistance they need to alleviate any mental or emotional problem they might be experiencing.”