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Students make case for enhanced school mental health services at state capitol


Students from Merrill High School's Raise Your Voice club advocated for enhanced mental health services in schools in Madison recently, speaking directly with people who can influence policy.

"It was such an awesome opportunity for me to see the high school students really take ownership over their experience and being able to talk about it," said Allie Libby, a club advisor and school counselor.

They were in Madison as part of an event through the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Wisconsin: its Budget Advocacy Day.

Students tell News 9 they were not able to speak directly with their representatives and lawmakers, but were coached on how to make their case to staffers.

"Since I've been a freshman, you can see it progressively coming more and more recognized, more of a problem," said Erik Mann, a junior who is also a club member. He says the pandemic may have a lot to do with mental health needs rising.

"We were there for the purpose of getting fully-funded, school-based mental health, but we got to learn more about crisis services, and I think that it was really interesting to get that perspective," said Reggie Lahti, a junior who is also a club member.

As the budget talks continue, students and staff say there was genuine interest in the subject from the officials, and it was an experience to remember.

"These higher-up people, they care about the situation, they actually want to make a difference about it. So it was really nice being able to give them the insight they were looking for," Mann said.

"Teens really can be part of the change. When you stop and really listen to them and care about their perspective, they can come up with really cool solutions," Libby added.

Students from Rhinelander High School and D.C. Everest High School were also along for the event.

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