By Abby Kreinheder
The BRAVE (Be Resilient And Voice Emotions) Summit, a mental health initiative for high schoolers, held its third annual event at the St. Augustine Amphitheater on March 29. This program aims to create a world that supports and nurtures mental health. Students were invited to jam out to live music, attend skateboard demos and partake in mental health discussions to de-stigmatize mental health awareness. Third-party organizations offered students resources to help them begin their journeys. The event’s speakers, including mental health experts and those who have faced mental health challenges, encouraged students to have transparent, honest conversations about mental health and normalize that it’s okay to not be okay.
Mason, a freshman at Palatka High School (PHS) holds up her customized BRAVE Summit T-shirt that reads ‘Brave To Be Mason.’ The shirts were a way to create a positive, compassionate atmosphere to encourage students to be brave in their mental health journeys. “I am brave to be me,” Mason said.
Encouraging, inspiring, and caring messages are written on sticky notes for students by students. The St. Augustine High School booth created a self-love project wherein students chose a message from the board that resonated with them and replaced it with their own message for another student to keep. The project’s initiative was to remind students that they are worth the world, pretty, doing great and appreciated.
George Evans, founder of Instaramp a fully functional mobile halfpipe, is mid-air during a skateboard demonstration. Five skateboarders ramped up the event showing off their skills and shared their personal mental health stories. “As non-profits continue to come up with innovative and inspiring ways to draw the media’s attention and inspire community action, our demonstrations can serve as the missing link to attract and reach a new generation of service-oriented millennials,” Evans wrote.
Four girls from PHS strike a pose in front of the BRAVE interview booth. Speakers and musicians sat down to talk with the students after their performances at the booth to engage with the students and remind them that they’re not alone. Samayra (far left) attended the Summit in 2022, but this time around she invited her three best friends. Over 1,000 students attended the event, double the previous year which is accredited to student conducted recruitment.
Students dissolve slips of paper into a pool of water to symbolize letting go of negative thoughts and worries intoxicating their minds. The tabling event provided a tangible way of relinquishing self-doubt, anger, sadness, stress, etc. and begin a new path that supports their mental health.
Six speakers share their life stories and mental health journeys that reach diverse audiences but communicate a common message: The hardest part is the start. Asking for help and finding the support one needs is the most confusing a daunting part of the process. “One of the biggest barriers is access to mental health services,” said Jermaine Williams, a certified recovery peer specialist and panelist. “I’m not from a small town, but the resources may as well be a small town with one traffic light.”
Local St. Augustine rock band, King Peach, opens for the event, playing original music while students cheer in the forefront. “Each of us are highly invested in our mental health and we understand the importance of fostering and maintaining positive behaviors from a young age to create a prosperous adulthood. Also, when Gotham needs a hero, Batman gotta show up you feel me?” said King Peach. The musicians embodied hope for the students to show that people are in their corner and want to help support them in any way they can even if it’s bringing a little happiness to their day through music.
Student paintings of eyes are on display inside the amphitheater for the 2023 BRAVE Summit art exhibition. This year’s inspirational word for the exhibit was introspection: the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. The project not only produced unique, artistic interpretations but was thought provoking; it made students ponder on the meaning, importance, and portrayal of introspection.
A team of students are playing a competitive match of cornhole against two members of the events’ security detail on the amphitheater lawn. While the topic of the BRAVE Summit was serious, the motivation behind it was to create an environment that allowed students to release the stigma around mental health discussions.