In a Zoom meeting with the Robotics team, junior Caitlyn Fitzgerald noticed one member, senior Jett Han, was not present. Soon, a teacher provided answers as to why.
“It was an extremely emotional time,” Fitzgerald said. “We talked a lot about how we can cope and who we can talk to and, if we knew [Han] personally, how we could deal with the passing.”
In light of his loss, Han’s parents created the Jett Han Scholarship Fund to promote suicide awareness while also funding college for teenagers who considered taking their own life. Many of Han’s friends and family donated to the scholarship fund, including senior Sarah Kwartin.
“[We] had been good friends since eighth grade, so that was the main reason I knew I should donate,” Kwartin said. “I just wanted to make sure that nobody else has to suffer like he did and I want him to always be remembered.”
Han’s friends were not the only ones contributing to the scholarship fund. People from all over the Marshall community had pitched in to support the project.
“I think they were being supportive,” Fitzgerald said. “You didn’t have to know him to pay respect […] His family probably really loved to see that people were showing so much love to the situation.”
Though Fitzgerald felt the strong support from the Marshall community, she said she questions the school’s mental health efforts.
“[Marshall] should do it in a better way,” Fitzgerald said. “They do a lot of things through videos that half the students sleep through and I think that students take the videos and stuff as a joke”
Fitzgerald said while the Marshall faculty cares about promoting mental health, they do not do it effectively. Kwartin said she feels similarly.
“They do a really good job on the surface,” Kwartin said. “It’s easy to simply encourage taking care of our mental health, but, in practice, their jobs make our lives stressful. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle where teachers encourage us to take care of our mental health but still assign us tons of work.”
Fitzgerald and Kwartin both said they believe Marshall could do better with mental health discussions, and counselor Cara Engel said she would agree.
“We fully recognize that mental health for students is at the forefront of concerns in the virtual sphere, but there are challenges for us,” Engel said. “We are used to students being able to seek us out during the school day, and that ease is not there virtually.”
Engel said that although she’s unsure whether Marshall addresses mental health productively, she believes that counselors are trying their best.
“We are trying all sorts of different things, like counseling groups, weekly inspirational emails, mental health planning advisory councils and Among Us brain breaks,” Engel said. “We […] tangentially started a Marshall Minds Matter initiative that is student [and] counselor led to provide mental health programming and resources to the entire Marshall community.”
While counselors are working hard on many different activities to promote mental health, Fitzgerald believes that the key to productive mental health discussions could be much simpler.
“Honestly, I think people just need to have an understanding of what they have to look forward to,” Fitzgerald said. “Some people fail to realize that and I feel like every student should feel like they’re worth it and know that they have a future to look forward to.”
Connecting to others and reaching out is essential to battling mental illness, and the Jett Han scholarship fund connected the community in this way.
“I saw people had donated to the fund that barely even knew who Jett was. I think it’s great that practically complete strangers have enough sympathy to help a grieving family,” Kwartin said.