By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – About a year ago, Michaela Clancy received approval to implement her final Girl Scout Gold Award project and decided to focus on mental health, the stigma that it has and ways to reach those in the surrounding community that may be affected.
Her project, titled, “Being Active with Mental Health,” has already had a positive response and is having an impact.
At the age of 11, Michaela lost her aunt to suicide. There is also a history of depression in her family. Because she has been directly affected, Michaela sought out ways to bring the topic to the community and she has created a packet along with a curriculum that is being used within the Westborough High School’s physical education wellness training.
“I worked really hard with the high school’s social worker, Stephanie Glenn, as well as my Gold Award advisor, John Badenhausen, director of Westborough Youth and Family Services,” Michaela said. “Nobody typically wants to talk about mental health but it is really important. Just having the information out there and accessible can make a difference. I am grateful for the support I have been getting.”
She designed the logo for the informational packet that she created. There is also a Girl Scout Patch for her project after girls complete mental health aid training. The curriculum includes training for both suicidal and non-suicidal crises. Michaela also made flyers and pull-tabs to place in the high school library, guidance office and restrooms. She created tri-fold boards for both her school and town library. In addition, she created a website with videos and resources, including the National Suicide Prevention hotline.
“I realized that within the Girl Scouts organization, there was no area where mental health was being addressed,” Michaela said. “I thought that by doing this project, I could introduce it to the Girl Scouts and bring about a change in the way mental health is viewed while helping many at the same time. I worked closely with social workers and psychologists to make sure the wording was correct.”
One of the things that surprised Michaela the most while working on her project was just how supportive everyone has been. She also did not expect such a strong response to the pull-tabs and has already had to replace many. After she graduates next year, the pull-tabs will continue to be replaced as needed.
“I am confident that I can truly make a difference. I am so happy that so many people were willing to talk to me about my project and get involved. I realize that it is a sensitive issue but it does affect so many, regardless of their age,” Michaela said.
Anyone wanting additional information can go to Michaela’s website, https://mentalhealthgoldaward.wordpress.com/.