Kenzie Antczak doesn’t shy away from talking about the hard stuff during the mental and emotional health unit for her 10th-grade classes.
“We talk about the topics of depression and suicide,” the health and physical education teacher at Winona Senior High School said. “We also talk about other mental illnesses and how they can affect anyone.”
She shows her students videos, such as one on Kevin Hines, who attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He was one of the less than 1% to survive such an attempt.
“He travels the world and speaks to millions of people about his story and his movement of #BeHereTomorrow,” Antczak said. “We watch the video and talk about suicide and how it’s OK to not be OK, and how mental illnesses can affect anyone.”
They talk about resources and how to help friends, loved ones or total strangers. They also talk about how to help themselves.
“It is crucial to talk to others, have open conversations and to be kind to everyone because you don’t always know what they are going through,” Antczak said.
The class also watches a video about Joe Beckman, a speaker who focuses on positivity and being a light in the lives of others.
He has three phrases he wants every kid — and adult — to hear: love you, push through and just look up.
“I have my students think of three heartfelt phrases they would say to someone they love and care about who is going through a hard time, whether it is severe or not,” Antczak said. “What are three positive things they would say?
“Some of the responses would warm your heart.”
I care and I’ll be there for you every step of the way to getting better
Don’t be ashamed.
You matter and I love you.
Take your life day by day. You never know what positive things could happen tomorrow.
Focus on you and no one else.
You are worth being here.
Believe you can get past this.
I am always here no matter what.
“Kids are truly much kinder with their words than we often give them credit for,” Antczak said.
Thursday was World Mental Health Day, and many people took to social media to help spread the message. Antczak did the same, asking her Twitter followers to “be kind today & everyday. You never know when someone else is struggling.”
The tweet continued with a personal, heartfelt admission.
“I’ve learned so much from my students about myself and more importantly how valuable it is to be vulnerable,” she said. “Open yourself up and you can make impactful relationships. Show love.”
Be kind today & everyday. You never know when someone else is struggling.— Kenzie Antczak (@MissAntczakPE) October 11, 2019
I've learned so much from my students about myself and more importantly how valuable it is to be vulnerable. Open yourself up and you can make impactful relationships. Show love 💛 #WorldMentalHealth