Calgary students sweep social media with mental health campaign

A social media hashtag created by Calgary high school students to raise money and awareness about mental health has exploded across Canada.

The hashtag #CHHSLetsTalk began with a modest goal of raising a few hundred dollars, but has been trending nationwide since Monday.

Brett Rothery, a Crescent Heights High School student, helped launch the campaign.

Over the holidays, Rothery, 16, and a few friends, handwrote 1,400 Post-It notes carrying inspirational quotes and the #CHHSLetsTalk hashtag.

“I’ve dealt with depression myself and it’s just something I think we need to address and we don’t in society enough,” Rothery told Global News.

The campaign is meant to get people talking about issues related to mental health.

Rothery’s principal at Crescent Heights, Jackie Chapman-Brown, was impressed and agreed to support the cause.

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“Brett came to see me the last week of school before Christmas vacation to do a presentation,” she said. “I thought it was a wonderful opportunity.”

Chapman-Brown agreed to donate five cents per tweet and retweet, up to $500.

“We were just like, ‘whoa, that’s so many tweets we’re never going to make that’; we made it in eight hours or something like that,” said Rothery. “It’s just blown away from there.”

The #CHHSLetsTalk campaign was launched at midnight Sunday and caught fire almost immediately.

By Monday evening it had earned some high profile support.

There was a congratulatory tweet from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to his hundreds of thousands of followers.

The campaign also caught the attention of Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara, who are Crescent Heights High School alumni.

The hashtag was trending number one across Canada, even beating Canada’s World Junior gold medal win.

Then more money started pouring in from companies and individuals.

“I saw these tweets popping up and I said OK, what can I do to help?” said Vincent St. Pierre, who has three disabled siblings who have wrestled with mental health issues.

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St. Pierre decided to offer up another $500 to sponsor 10,000 more tweets.

By Tuesday afternoon, that goal was realized and a corporate sponsor, CSV Midstream Solutions, then came forward.

The oil and gas infrastructure company is offering $5000 for 100,000 posts by Friday at 11:59 pm.

“It’s just beyond words,” said Rothery.

Here are some mental health resources:

Calgary Distress Centre: Counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Online crisis chat is available 5pm-10pm daily.

Kids Help Phone: A free, anonymous and confidential phone and on-line professional counselling service for youth.

Canadian Mental Health Association: Tools for understanding mental health issues that can lead to suicide.


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