Student club Mind the Cap advocates for mental health awareness and student belonging

Student club Mind the Cap advocates for mental health awareness and student belonging

Everyone knows school can be stressful. If you’re looking for a place to relieve your stress, DePaul Prep’s very own mental health club, Mind the Cap, might be a great place to start.

Conceptualized by DePaul Prep counselor Michael Sneed in 2019, aided by fellow counselor Nicole Rand, the club’s goal is to create a safe space for students to de-stress and connect with others during the school day. 

“We all have mental health,” Rand says, which makes what the club does so important. The club started with just four members at its beginning, but has grown to over 20 consistent members. According to Sneed, it’s a “fun opportunity to get involved and meet people,” while also addressing important issues.

The club was created to “promote mental health awareness,” according to current co-moderator Shelby Saunders, another DePaul Prep counselor, but it isn’t a therapy session. Rather, students in the club become “the voice and presence for mental health” at DePaul Prep, according to Rand. 

Students have participated in many self care art projects that encourage creativity and improve moods. Junior Ava Maggiore, three year member of the club, says it created a space for her to “destress and take a break from the normal school day.” 

All are welcome, not just those with a particular mental health diagnosis. “It’s not therapy, it’s about making a difference,” says Rand. 

Mind the Cap has been behind several notable fundraisers and events. They have sold bracelets to benefit Sip of Hope, a coffee shop located in Logan Square that donates all of their proceeds to suicide prevention efforts and mental health support. Sip of Hope partners with Dark Matter Coffee, and is a physical product of the work done by the organization Hope for the Day, a non-profit that encourages conversations surrounding mental health and suicide and works to provide people with resources to break the stigma around mental health disorders. 

Club members also raised over 370 dollars by selling hot chocolate to benefit Coffee, Hip-Hop and Mental Health, a coffee shop that donates proceeds to bringing awareness to issues surrounding mental health and emotional well-being. The organization aims to provide people with free therapy where they would not otherwise have access to it. 

Mind the Cap has also worked with local organizations to bring in therapy dogs, allowing students to interact with the dogs to relieve stress and take some time to relax. 

During club meetings, Mind the Cap’s aim is to uplift students’ identities and reduce stress. The club aims to “create a niche” for students who want to feel a place where they fit in with the school community, and to “amplify voices that are usually marginalized,” says Sneed. Some favorite activities of teachers and students involved are yearly sidewalk chalk affirmations outside the school, encouraging students to “love themselves” on Valentine’s Day, and doing various art and creative projects, according to Sneed. 

An upcoming project for Mind the Cap is the creation of “mental health first-aid kits,” to be distributed to feeder schools, elementary and middle schools that send many graduates to attend DePaul Prep. These kits will be given to ten different schools, and the hope is that they help young students get in touch with their mental health as they prepare for high school.

In the words of club founder Sneed, “stigma sucks,” which is why what the club does to fight it is so important. The overall message of the club is that “it’s okay to not be okay,” the same message printed on the bracelets sold by the club this past fall.