Meigs County students organize About Hope Always summit to address teens’ mental health

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POMEROY, Ohio (WOUB) — A group of students from three high schools in Meigs County are coming together to host a mental health awareness day.

The event, About Hope Always (AHA), will be held May 12 in the Meigs High School gymnasium from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and will feature guest speakers, a concert and educational games.

Katy Cox, a student at Meigs High School, said the idea for the summit came about while her and another student were interning for the Meigs County Chamber of Commerce. The event was initially pitched as a career fair, but the decision was made to organize an event that focused on students’ mental health, instead.

“[About Hope Always] came about when two of us were talking about mental health in our school,” said Cox. “We were hoping that we could put on some sort of event to benefit students at our school and that expanded into a countywide high school meeting.”

“We’re already friends, so it was really easy to collaborate about this subject because we knew each other,” said Claire Howard, a fellow Meigs High School student and chamber of commerce intern.

After presenting the idea to the chamber of commerce in December 2022, the chamber threw its support behind the idea. Students from Southern High School and Eastern Local High School soon became involved and it expanded into a countywide event with the support of school administrators

AHA comes at a time when teenagers are dealing with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about school safety and the effect of social media on teenagers’ mental health.

An high shot of Meigs High School from a distance
Meigs High School where the About Hope Always event is set for May 12. [Meigs High School]
“I feel like with the pandemic, everyone got really involved in social media, which led to more mental health issues,” said Andrea Mahr, another student organizer from Meigs High. “Not only is screentime not good for your physical health, dealing with comments on social media and interacting with people through a computer or through your phone is a lot different than doing so in person and it places a strain on your mental health.”

In addition to the chamber, Integrated Services, Health Recovery Services, the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center, the Meigs County Health Department and the Gallia, Jackson & Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services have all pledged money towards the event, along with members of the community.

“At the end of last week, we have received about $8,000 and have more money that’s been committed,” said Amy Perrin, career councilor at Meigs High School and a member of the board of directors of the Meigs County Chamber of Commerce.

“We needed to raise about $12,000 to pay for speakers and T-shirts. We also have a hospitality room that’s going to be set up at the event for dignitaries,” said Perrin. “We’re going to be handing out ‘swag bags’ at the end of the event and inside the bags will be all kinds of resources, contact information and gadgets that different organizations have provided.”

Mahr emphasized the importance of teamwork between the student organizers, school administrators and the community in making this summit come to fruition.

“I think we’re a good team. We don’t put anyone down. It’s always been student driven and very supportive,” said Mahr. “Even though we’re looked at as a small community that might not have the resources to pull something like this off, we are such a tight-knit community that things like this are possible.”

According to Perrin, there have been discussions of making AHA an event that takes place every other year for high schoolers and doing an abbreviated version for students in middle school during off years.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning of something that we can continue and use as a model for future events,” said Perrin.

“The whole point of this event is to make people happy and excited and to give them the resources they need to know about themselves and reach out if they need to,” said Cox.