Seventeen students across the state have been awarded as the winners of North Dakota’s first-ever Youth Ending Stigma Challenge.
The students were tasked to propose plans that would end the stigma that tends to surround behavioral health issues.
Not only have these high schoolers been recognized by Governor Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum, but they will all have their projects funded to turn them into realities.
KX News met with the two winners in the Minot area to learn more about the Youth Ending Stigma Challenge.
“I just hope that they know that they are not alone and that there are many people out there that they can reach out to without being judged. We’re here for them,” Addyson Leier, Nedrose High School student said.
That’s a common theme for two high schoolers.
South Prairie student Kaden Korgel said, “Even if it’s not them that is dealing with something, if it’s a friend or family member, that they have the courage to talk about it or the courage to go get help. That they actually won’t be getting judged.”
The Youth Ending Stigma Challenge encouraged them to find ways to eliminate the stigma attached to behavioral health issues like addiction and mental illness.
“People that I have come across think that addiction is a choice and it’s really not a choice. It’s a disease,” Addyson said. “I don’t think that addicts should have the labels that they are associated with.”
So she partnered with Embrace ND, an addiction support group led by her mom, to promote the reminder, ‘you are more.’
With awareness bracelets, an open ear, and an open heart, she wants more youth to be open to supporting others who may be struggling.
She said it’s all about “the fact that students know they’re not alone and that they have someone they can come and talk to when they’re struggling.”
Kaden’s concept is similar.
“I think that people are just scared to be talking about their mental health or their addiction because they feel like they’re being judged, said Kaden.
He coordinated a few things: a guest speaker to tell their story about mental health, an open house for a discussion on behavioral health topics, a social media campaign, and a pledge for all students at South Prairie to ask for help if they need it.
“They just aren’t comfortable talking about it and that’s what the stigma is .. we just want to get rid of it.”
These students and winners throughout the state will get to implement these stigma-ending projects over an eight-week period.
You can follow the progress of each one on social media.
Twitter: @GovernorDougBurgum and @FirstLadyND
Instagram: @dougburgum and @firstladynd
All grants to make these possible have been funded through the Recovery Reinvented fund at Dakota Medical Foundation.