Campus kicks off mental health month with 5K


Mind Matters organizer and biology teacher Elizabeth Brimhall explains the route of the 5K walk and run Saturday morning on the Quad. According to Brimhall, she hopes the event will help build awareness for mental health issues and establish a supportive community at Palo Alto High School. “I’m hoping people will have fun out here today, walk with their families, and feel a connection to the school campus,” Brimhall said. “[I hope we] recognize that we’re all as a community kind of working towards this goal of improving mental health for everyone.” (Photo: Jonathan Chen)

To raise awareness about mental health issues, Palo Alto High School students and teachers are hosting community bonding and fundraising events throughout this month beginning with the first-ever Mind Matters fundraiser last Saturday on the Quad. 

Participants walked and ran three laps around the Viking Loop, which stretched from the Quad to the end of Ray Field. Each lap included a theme relating to mental health, including remembering loved ones who have battled mental illness and remembering sources of personal strength. 

Katie Kim, a parent runner who participated in the event, said the event themes remind her of her friends struggling with mental health.

“I know a lot of people in my life who suffer from mental health illnesses,” Kim said. “So [during the run] I was definitely trying to reflect on all of my loved ones and how to support them throughout their journeys.”

According to biology teacher Elizabeth Brimhall, who organized the event with a student planning committee, her inspiration for the event came from attending a similar run to raise mental health awareness. 

“Several years ago, a bunch of educators from PAEA [Palo Alto Educators Association] did an event called the Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention,” Brimhall said. “Ever since then, I thought this would be great if our community had an event similar to this where we were out walking and inviting the community to focus on mental health.” 

Brimhall said running can be a great activity for those looking to improve their mental clarity. 

“We know that walking and exercising is one of the best things you can do for your mental health and wellness as well as physical health,” Brimhall said. “It’s sort of like a double winner in that way.” 

Freshman Khrisar Magana, who volunteered at the event, said running is a great way to relieve stress. 

“Whenever I think about my finals coming up right now, I just run a mile, and I forgot about everything I was going to do,” Magana said. “Running just takes away a lot of stress for me.”

According to Brimhall, this event is the first of many events Paly has planned to promote mental health awareness during May. 

“The 5K is the kickoff and then there’s going to be a bunch of events during lunch next week that [the] Wellness [Center] is organizing,” Brimhall said. “Then there’s going to be a culminating event with Joanna Ho, a Paly graduate and author, [who will] come speak about a book she wrote recently about the experiences of a high school student, and how their family seeks help, rebuilds and heals after a traumatic event.”

Brimhall said that the success of this event has encouraged her to follow this tradition and carry forward with more mental health awareness. 

“I’m just super excited that this event came together,” Brimhall said. “It just shows how much our community values connection with each other, connection with our school, and mental health.”