Tweeting about mental health raises big money at local high school

A social media campaign launched by a Calgary teenager has raised thousands of dollars for mental health awareness.

Crescent Heights High School student Brett Rothery first came up with #CHHSLetsTalk last October, while running for student council president at the inner-city high school.

“I was coming up with a platform to run on and I decided that mental health was something that really needed to be addressed in my school and in society in general,” Rothery explained in a recent interview.

He was inspired to do a social media campaign by the phone company Bell which sponsors #BellLetsTalk in which it raises money and awareness for mental health issues across Canada.

This year, #BellLetsTalk happens Jan. 28 and will feature Olympic gold medallist Clara Hughes, comics Mary Walsh and Howie Mandel and sports commentator Michael Landsberg.

Rothery’s campaign works the same as Bell’s.

A five-cent donation is made per tweet and retweet of the hashtag #CHHSLetsTalk, though Rothery’s campaign also incorporates Instagram and Facebook.

“As this is our centennial year at Crescent Heights, I decided that taking on a mental health initiative would show the progress that we have made to become a school of history in a modern day society,” said Rothery.

The school was immediately supportive of the initiative.

When asked about funding the endeavour, the principal agreed to donate $500 at which point Rothery put out a call for tweets and retweets of #CHHSLetsTalk.

The initial goal was 10,000 retweets so that they would be able to cover the $500 being donated by the school.

But the campaign quickly surpassed that and as of Jan. 21 had received more than 120,000 tweets and raised more than $20,000.

“The campaign has been extremely well received by everyone around us,” said Rothery.

“It was amazing how quickly it took off.”

The end date of #CHHSLetsTalk, which hits its first goal of 10,000 tweets within eight hours, has been pushed back to Jan. 28 with a new goal of 200,000 tweets.

If the new goal is reached, CVS Midstream Solutions, a local company, will donate another $5,000 to match the $5,000 they had already donated.

The #CHHSLetsTalk campaign has received international attention, with people worldwide participating.

“We had people from Malaysia, Japan, France, Spain, the U.K., you name it, tweeting at us soon after we started the campaign,’ said Rothery.

Locally we are also seeing other institutions planning similar  mental health awareness initiatives.

Rothery says that he was recently contacted by Notre Dame High School in Calgary, which expressed interest in supporting a mental health awareness at its campus.

SAITSA, which already has its own mental health programs, thought that #CHHSLetsTalk was a great idea.

“I think that it’s a strong way to spread the word, especially through the use of social media which is so popular among students,” said Thao Nguyen, SAITSA vice-president of student life.

Though SAITSA has no current plans to launch a social media campaign like #CHHSLetsTalk, Nguyen says that there are many other ways that SAIT promotes awareness of mental health issues.

It was amazing how quickly it took off. -Brett Rothery

“Currently there is a student support centre which is a safe place for any student to go for mental support,” said Nguyen.

SAITSA is also planning a mental health awareness week that is set to take place from March 9-15.

“We want to find out from the students what we have done for mental health so far and what else they think we could do.”

For more information of mental health awareness, visit http://www.cmha.ca/

About Ryan MacLean 7 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ryan MacLean is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.