Madison Mental Health


Makenna Kampmann, Reporter

Over spring break a group of students from our high school, as well as many other high schools, traveled to Madison to urge lawmakers for more funding for schools mental health programs. 

Six students were asked by different members in the building to go along and advocate for mental health. Students went through an organization called National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 

Owen Soehl, a junior who went on the trip joined students all over the northwoods. When they arrived in Madison, students had breakfast with NAMI where they introduced themselves and shared their stories. 

“We sat down for an hour and a half and went through a slide show about what this was about, what they were going to talk about, and the importance of this. Then a panel came up and we could ask questions,” Soehl said. NAMI hosted police officers, 988 hotline workers, and other mental health activists on this panel, he added.

Then students split up into groups and met with people who represented their area in the capitol. 

“We met with two Republican lawmakers, not the individuals but people that represented them. They asked a lot of questions, and we all got turns to answer questions about our experience with mental health and the funding that it has,” said Soehl. “Everyone was able to get their perspective that I feel really resonated with them.”

Not known to many students, schools do get funding for mental health. Matt Burns, a senior, said “Some of the programs, like crisis centers or other mental health institutions, are using money from Covid relief funding, so we still have left over money from that that we are still using. Governor Evers is giving us another three million dollars that we can start taking once that money runs out.”

Soehl said that NAMI’s goal is to get more funding for schools with mental health and have new institutions put in place. “One thing that we are trying to get lawmakers to hopefully work on adding more than just one mental health institution.”

Ana Aphayrath, junior, said that going on this trip meant a lot to her. She said, “I feel good that I have this opportunity to make this change. I want to make a difference.”

Aphayrath said her biggest concern, as well as others’, was “finding someone to talk to.” She expressed that it is harder for teachers to understand what students are going through. “They [students] need someone to look up to and to trust,” she said. 

Both Burns and Soehl said their biggest concern with mental health is the stigma that comes with it. 

“I think that there are a lot of things that we want to do and a lot of different organizations that we want to support, a lot of them don’t get the backing they need because people are so afraid of the topic of mental health,” said Burns. “Once people receive the opportunity to speak about mental health they don’t know what to do with it and they don’t know what to say because it [mental health] always seems so far off and distant.”

Soehl explained that for mental health to get better there need to be more support and a better “cultural backbone.” He said the stigma that comes with mental health can be improved from a “progressing society.” Soehl said, “I think that most of the stigma that comes behind it is from societal norms, like the cage they put around those individuals.”

Burns and Aphayrath said that they felt welcomed by the lawmakers in Madisons. Burns said that the lawmakers already have the concern and are looking for solutions. Aphayrath said that she felt welcomed because the lawmakers were asking questions and seemed interested. 

Soehl felt the lawmakers were not taking his words into account. “It seems like we were being looked at, we were being heard, they were thinking, but they did not necessarily care just because it was kids doing it.”

Students have not heard of any outcomes from the visit, although are hopeful for the future.




Thursday before break, Jaylee Thomas, Braden Zoromski, Matt Burns, Owen Soehl, Ana Aphayrath, and Erin Jacobson went to the State Capitol to advocate for full funding for school mental health with staff members of our State Representatives.  While there they also met with students and staff from many neighboring schools and discussed what those students were doing in their schools in supporting student mental health.  These students were well spoken and represented Everest in an amazing light while also participating in a unique and powerful experience!