Geneva Mental Health Board, students promote mental health awareness in May

Positive messages, green ribbons intended to prompt conversations

Abigail Bowgren, (left) Kate Bellino and Arianna Heckman tie a green ribbon around a tree by the middle schools in Geneva to promote May as as Mental Health Awareness Month.

GENEVA – The chalk messages – known as chalk talk – were simple: You are so smart. You are enough. Grow with it – with the O in grow as a blooming flower.

Geneva High School and middle school students wrote these affirmations as part of a campaign this month to support awareness and education during Mental Health Awareness Month, said Suzy Shogren, chairperson of the Geneva 708 Mental Health Board.

“We have, in past couple years, worked with Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Peer Leadership program … and the National Honor Society at the high school, and coordinated efforts with students at both middle schools’ Leos Clubs … empowering the students as to get them to think what they would like to do to promote awareness and education,” Shogren said.

Students wrote chalk affirmations on the sidewalks at the schools’ entrances and tied bright green ribbons around trees at the schools and Geneva City Hall.

“So when people ask about it, it would then generate conversation,” Shogren said. “One of the obstacles has also been the stigma attached to that. This is getting conversations started and letting people know it’s OK to talk about it.”

On May 16, the high school girls lacrosse team sold cookies and bracelets to support Morgan’s Message Foundation, a mental health awareness organization.

“The foundation attempts to eliminate the stigma within the student athlete community and and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics, to encourage dialogue and empower those who struggle and feel alone,” Shogren said.

Andrew Kournetas (left) and Ben Krieg cut bright green plastic sheeting into strips so they can be tied as ribbons in Geneva to promote May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

The SADD Club also hung “Stall Street Journals” in the restrooms and around the school, promoting positive coping strategies and normalizing talking about mental health concerns. And the high school GTV studio promoted a challenge related to positive mental health each day, such as a 30 minute walk outside with a friend.

The Mental Health Board also updated signage at the Geneva Metra station with the 988 National Hotline link and QR Code for anyone to receive immediate help through talk, text or chat with a trained mental health volunteer.

The Mental Health Board has a mental health awareness tab on the city’s website,, that provides the board’s message and a link of resources and fact sheets.