Students at Regina's St. Matthew Elementary School are looking to pay it forward and prove that kindness has the power to improve mental health and well-being.
UnderstandUs — a volunteer-based organization aiming to combat the stigma of mental health — has partnered with the Grade 7/8 class at St. Matthew on its campaign, called Letters to No One.
UnderstandUs says its mission is to provide awareness and education for youth to overcome mental health barriers.
The Letters to No One campaign encourages the students to practise randoms acts of kindness in order to promote mental wellness in their community and for themselves.
The students all wrote a kind letter that could be given to anyone and handed them out to strangers in the Scarth Street area.
"It made me realize that if I do something good to someone else, it's like a chain reaction … They'll take that, and pay it forward to someone else," said Zoe Deiana, a Grade 8 student at St. Matthew who participated in the campaign.
"People usually, with mental illnesses, they don't really feel like they have anyone to talk to. They feel sometimes alone," said Deiana. "By doing a random act of kindness, that can change the course of someone's day. That can help make them feel better."
UnderstandUs has been partnering with Brett Matlock's classroom at St. Matthew on its annual campaign for the past four years. The students take part in, and help to organize, the annual campaign launch.
The annual event helps UnderstandUs raise funds to provide mental health education to youth in Saskatchewan.
Matlock said the exercise allows the students to become aware of their own well-being and provides them with critical tools for taking care of their own mental health.
"Students are really reflecting upon their own experience, and saying, 'This is what I wish someone would've said to me to make my own mental health better,'" said Matlock.
Grade 8 student Zachary Hillis said that raising awareness around mental health is especially important as students are about to enter high school.
"There's a lot of bullying. It's really tough, there's exams going on. It's just sometimes really hard to get through," said Hillis.
"It's also good to know that there are many places you can get help from. You can get it from your parents, you can get it from the school, your friends, classmates, anyone."
Leaving an impact
Grade 7 student Olena Rashovich's letter left a lasting impact on a stranger.
She handed her letter to someone who was dealing with a death in the family, and that night the class received an email saying that her gesture and the message gave the reader a sense of hope.
"I think it made them feel like they were really strong, and that even when things were hard they could get through it," said Rashovich.
"It kind of helped us all understand that what we do affects everybody around us," she said.
"I just hope they become advocates for social justice," said Matlock. "[I hope] they just become more engaged citizens that make the world a better place."
UnderstandUs is launching its fifth annual campaign Tuesday night at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina at 5:45 p.m. CST.