#CHHSLetsTalk campaign shines social media spotlight on mental health

A Calgary teenager is behind a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about mental health that is trending across Canada.

Brett Rothery came up with the idea to raise money for Canadian Mental Health Association

Grade 12 student Brett Rothery started the Twitter campaign #CHHSLetsTalk to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. (CBC)

A Calgary teenager is behind a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about mental health that is trending across Canada. 

Grade 12 student Brett Rothery started #CHHSLetsTalk to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Rothery convinced Crescent Heights High School, where he attends, to donate five cents for every tweet, retweet, Instagram and Facebook post — up to $500.

Within the campaign’s first nine hours they had surpassed the goal of 10,000 tweets.

“We've had people from Malaysia tweet us, Japan,” he said.

Rothery, who is president of the students' council, struggled when he came out as gay.

"I always sort of had a little bit of depression. I battled that a lot,” he said.

Jackie Chapman-Brown, the principal of Crescent Heights High School, says the school aims to promote student voice and this initiative was easy to support.

"We really believe that our students aren’t the leaders of tomorrow, our students here are the leaders of today," she said. "This initiative is just one example of how they have proven themselves when they get involved in social issues and how capable they are of taking on the challenge of dealing with those issues straight on."

Rothery's initiative also got the attention of Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. 

“I think kids are a little bit afraid of being judged,” he said.

“That's why we've been doing all this so we can say openly, ‘It's not an issue with you. It's an imbalance in chemistry, and it’s something that can be fixed, and it’s something that you can talk about.’”

Rothery also posted sticky notes with positive messages on school lockers, and he is planning a movie fundraiser at his school later this week.

Because the school can only afford to pledge $500, Rothery hoped others would step in — and his wish was answered.

Vincent St. Pierre watched the Twitter campaign quickly exceed the school's $500 pledge, so decided to step in and match it.

"I have three siblings, two of them have schizophrenia with a dual diagnosis with autism and I have another sibling with autism. so when you go out into the community and you talk about these issues, it gets it more personal and more understanding and you start to generate a sense of empathy." 

All this is good news to Joy Pavelich with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"I love the idea that young people are not only talking about mental health but actually want to be engaged in looking at a solution, and creating the awareness that we need."

And the donations continue to pour in​. Rothery tweeted on Tuesday that if they get 100,000 tweets by Friday night a local company will donate $5,000 to the cause.

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