Cypress Woods HS hosts second annual “Walk for a Tomorrow” mental health walk
Members of the Cypress Woods High School Wildthings pose with signs they made for the Walk for a Tomorrow mental health walk on Feb. 27. Attendees were encouraged to write signs showcasing why they were walking in the event. (Photo by Lauren Lavers, Cypress Woods HS)
By Lauren Lavers, Cypress Woods HS
March 23, 2023—The Cypress Woods High School Wildcat Mental Health Alliance (WMHA) held its second annual “Walk for a Tomorrow” event on Feb. 27. The WMHA hosts the event each year to honor those who have lost their lives to suicide or struggle with mental health issues both at Cypress Woods and within the community.
The WMHA was formed in 2020 by a group of students wanting to change the stigma surrounding mental health and provide support for the Cypress Woods student body. Cypress Woods senior Stefany Jansen and senior Susan Al-Almra, WMHA co-presidents, along with the help of Doug Harbrueger, Cypress Woods counselor and WMHA sponsor, planned and set up the event with the help of other student and faculty volunteers.
“As a student-led organization, the club really hopes that the walk accomplishes a couple of different things,” Harbrueger said. “First, we want students, families and the Cypress Woods community to continue to recognize that it is okay to speak up when you’re struggling. Too many times students and adults feel like they are alone in their struggles and that there is no one who can help them.”
The event serves to raise awareness and financial support for mental health resources and to create a safe and positive environment for staff and students to speak about mental health. This year’s goal was to focus more specifically on suicide prevention and the organizations available to help navigate a mental health crisis.
“In addition to raising awareness about mental health, we wanted to be able to raise support for mental health activities in our community,” Harbrueger said.
Susan Al-Almra, Cypress Woods High School senior and Wildcat Mental Health Alliance (WMHA) co-president, left, presents Debra English, Cypress Woods English teacher, the inaugural Wildcat Mental Health Awareness Award for her commitment to support students and faculty alike struggling with mental health. (Photo by Lauren Lavers, Cypress Woods HS)
The WMHA recognized several Cypress Woods teachers who were nominated by students and staff as “Heroes of Mental Health,” who advocate and encourage mental health wellness. The inaugural Wildcat Mental Health Awareness Award was given to Debra English, Cypress Woods English teacher, for her commitment to support students and faculty alike struggling with mental health.
“I care about mental health because I think it has been overlooked,” English said. “We watch our grades, we take our temperature but we need to check our mental well-being, too.”
English recalled hearing Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale speak at a mental health webinar where she stressed the importance of early intervention for mental health.
“Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale spoke, and she said that everyone knows that if you find a lump on your body, the earlier you go to the doctor and receive treatment, the better your outcome,” English said. “We need to feel the same about mental health. Go to the doctor as soon as you see signs that concern you and get the help you need to be well.”
Members of the Cypress Woods High School Wildcat Mental Health Alliance (WMHA) present a check worth $3,600 to help fund counseling scholarships for Cypress Woods students and students within the Cypress Woods feeder pattern. The total amount raised through the second annual Walk for a Tomorrow event was $4,400. (Photo by Lauren Lavers, Cypress Woods HS)
At the walk, multiple speakers from different foundations spoke on the importance of mental health and asked those in attendance to understand that the goal of the walk was to not only bring awareness to mental health, but to also help suicide prevention among young people. Organizations like the Amy Hope Foundation, which was created in honor of Amy Hinaman, a former Cypress Woods student, and the Cy-Hope Counseling Center were in attendance, lining the sidewalk with support booths set up for students to ask questions and seek information on the various support and services they offer.
The Amy Hope Foundation generously agreed to match the amount of funds raised at the walk to donate to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. With more than 330 students, faculty members and families in attendance, the Walk for a Tomorrow event was able to raise $4,400. Over the past two years, the walk has raised more than $16,000 for mental health awareness. Most of the proceeds will contribute toward providing counseling scholarships at Cy-Hope Counseling Center and Shield Bearer’s Counseling Center for students at Cypress Woods and its feeder schools.
In addition, a donation was made to Cy-Fair Helping Hands, an organization that provides resources for homeless students and their families within CFISD.
Harbrueger said: “Our hope is that this walk will provide help to students in our Cy Woods community so that they feel supported, encouraged and have hope for a better tomorrow.”