Mental health advocate visits 7 Columbia schools to spread awareness
COLUMBIA - Mike Veny experienced trouble with mental health throughout his childhood. Instead of letting his negative past consume him, he decided to help other children by spreading mental health awareness.
Veny is touring Columbia to engage with young people on mental health stigma, visiting seven schools and doing drumming workshops this week.
He said people sometimes feel and think things that can't be said, which is where music comes into play. Veny is known for teaching emotional health through drumming and art as a way to communicate.
"Art gives a great platform for youth to do that," he said. "And so, it's really important for people to find an outlet to express themselves."
Ron Rowe, the coordinator for Youth Community Coalition, joins with other local groups to support young people and their families when faced with issues such as mental health challenges.
"Students are increasingly aware of the anxiety that they feel and the stress that they're under, and we work with different groups to help them, where possible, and come up with programs that will help them address that," Rowe said.
He brought Veny to Frederick Douglass High School Wednesday. Students there shared their own stories of overcoming mental health issues. Veny said it created inspiring connections.
"Many have gone through trauma, it's a lot, plus, the pressure of being a student in school. And, we all know school can be an interesting place, socially, for all of us, so, you put all of this together and it's a recipe for mental health challenges, in my opinion," Veny said.
He references three ideas from his book, "Transforming Stigma," to teach students how to transform shame, silence and sabotage into strengths as they become "mental wellness superheroes."
Rowe said "Speakers like Mike that have that gift and a skill for connecting with these students, and especially ones who have experienced that, that connection, it's a life changing experience for some of these students."
Veny said mental health challenges can be a catalyst for issues such as substance abuse or bullying when they are not addressed. He also said there are economic ramifications because a "mentally wealthy community will produce more economically."