Iris Dunham Organizes The Your Mind Matters Walkathon

Student Shows Initiative For The Mental Health of Teens and Young Adults



Your Mind Matters

Caroline King, Writer/Editor/Reporter

It is often difficult for teachers and adults to get through to high school students about their mental health. Teachers and school staff often participate in mental wellness practices, in an attempt to make improvements in the mental health of students. Various mental health presentations and other routine efforts to make school a positive and safe place for students are certainly present. However, these attempts can feel performative at times. In the eyes of a student struggling with their mental health, these resources are of no use if they weren’t there prior to the struggle, or if they simply aren’t realistic. While students are aware that teachers are trying to help them, it is still unclear how to truly improve the overall mental health of teenage high school students and young adults. Senior Iris Dunham puts this phenomenon into words: “Over the past 4 years of high school, it’s been mostly adults preaching at the students, and from what I can tell, it’s not been effective for students because it’s not coming from students who understand what we are all going through.” 

Iris Dunham decided to take this struggle into her own hands and organize the Your Mind Matters Walkathon, a 5k to raise awareness for mental health, specifically for the mental health of students and young adults. “I wanted to inspire other students through this and show them that they can make a difference.” said Iris.

Iris’s goal is to execute a student centered event that provides resources for students in Clinton and Clinton community members. In doing so, Iris brings important initiative to the topic of mental health in the Morgan community: “where are we on the table for this matter? If it’s going to be about us, then where are we, and where’s our voice?” She urges students to speak up and adults to listen to the concerns of students, “I feel like this is a good way to get that rolling.” Iris explains.

Iris Dunham, organizer of Your Mind Matters Walkathon (Caroline King)

The Your Mind Matters Walkathon calls on students and community members to step out and show their support for mental health, “This isn’t something that we need to hide. As a town, I think that there’s so much we can do to make people feel comfortable about these topics and feel like they have an outlet,” said Iris. The walkathon will take place on May 7th at Ethel Peter’s Complex Track. The event will start at 9:00 am and end at 1:00 pm.

All the proceeds raised from this event will be donated to the Jed Foundation, a foundation dedicated to providing funds to high schools and colleges, funds that implement tools and strategies into schools so that they can better their ability to assist students with mental health. The foundation was founded by two parents who lost their son, Jed, to suicide in 1998. One of the goals of the Jed Foundation is to better equip teenagers and young adults to navigate difficult mental health challenges. 

All participants, either walking solo or in a group, will receive a free T-shirt. Donations opened on March 24th, and will close at the end of the event. Forms to sign up and report donations are accessed by an emailed link for students or from a link found on social media for community members. “When you collect money from people, you can report it on the Google form and then give it to us at the event or to Mrs. Luther,” said Iris. 

The event will include lots of variety: “At the beginning of the walkathon, some speakers are going to share some stories of things they have experienced,” Iris explained. Also offered at the event will be activities for children like face painting and craft making. “We have a bunch of different resources prepared, different businesses and foundations, that are devoted to raise money for mental health,” continued Iris.

Some of the town businesses that are forming teams are Pica Chica, Coastline Fitness, and Fringe Modern and Vintage. Iris is still looking for other small businesses and organizations to participate in the event, one of those being a yoga studio to instruct yoga. “It’s going to be a really inspirational time, and I think it’s going to be very encouraging to see and to learn. There’s going to be so many resources that a lot of people don’t know about, and I think it’s a great way to show your support for mental health and maybe you yourself can benefit from it,” said Iris.

Captains and coaches of spring sports are encouraged to participate with their team in order to collect pledges and walk together on May 7th. Other groups like clubs at Morgan are also asked to participate as a team. Whether you’re planning on walking solo or as part of a team, the event is in a little over a month, so it would be best to start looking for donations now. “You can create a Google form for yourself or a social media page and advertise that you’re forming a team or that you’re walking solo, and then people can volunteer to donate,” Iris explained. 

If an individual does not want to walk the 5k but still wants to donate, they can do so by submitting a form with the donation amount or submitting a pledge to a team. It’s also important to mention that the team or solo walker who raises the most money will be rewarded with a prize at the end of the event. 

The Your Mind Matters Walkathon provides an opportunity for students and the community to come together and show their support. At the end of the day, it’s about being there for each other. At some point or another, we have all struggled. 

Iris is open about the topic of mental health, and encourages others to do the same: “Specifically for me, I struggle a lot with mental health and throughout high school it’s kind of fluctuated for me. There’s been good times and bad times. I think this is my way of not only helping myself, but others,” said Iris 

Your Mind Matters, so, show up for it! Iris: “This is our chance to make a statement and show our responsibility in this matter. That we do have a seat at the table, and we deserve that seat – we are capable of a lot more than we think, we can take this responsibility and do something with it.”