Mental health campaign goes viral

January 27, 2015
Kim Dewar, ATA News Staff
Brett Rothery is a Calgary high school student who started a Twitter campaign aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues. The campaign went viral and has so far raised more than $20,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

High school student Brett Rothery uses Twitter to raise awareness and money for mental health issues

Brett Rothery, a student at Calgary’s Crescent Heights High School, became a Twitter hero in January when his #CHHSLetsTalk campaign went viral and raised more than $20,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. The campaign started with Rothery securing a promise from his school to donate five cents for each tweet or retweet up to $500. The campaign went on to receive attention across the globe and racked up more than 100,000 tweets within the week. Rothery has since secured a pledge from another donor to contribute another $5,000 if the campaign hits 200,000 tweets by Jan. 28.

What inspired you to raise money for mental health?

I think that mental health is something that often goes unaddressed within schools, as well as in society in general. There exists a sort of dichotomy between physical and mental health and the way that they are perceived, and I wish to help bridge this gap even a little through this campaign.

Crescent Heights has long been involved with the Kids Cancer Care foundation, and every year we have a massive head shave, last year raising over $13,000. Through this I wanted to use the same energy and passion toward another cause that perhaps and arguably doesn’t get enough attention.

Why is it important to you to raise awareness and funds for mental health issues?

It’s important for me, as well as everyone involved in this campaign, to raise awareness and funds for mental health issues because, as I said before, in society physical and mental illnesses are not seen as equal. Often mental health issues are dismissed until they become a large problem for people, and we wished to bring awareness to that. We hoped to start conversations (and we believe we did) surrounding mental health issues and how it should be acceptable to break down the stigma that often surrounds them, and be able to talk about them openly. The awareness and starting of conversations was our main goal, the fundraising for the very deserving Canadian Mental Health Association is the cherry on top.

How have your teachers, principal, classmates encouraged/supported you? What about your parents?

It has been amazing to see the amount of support for this campaign that has come from everywhere. I have had huge support from each of my teachers, principal, classmates and parents. Many of my teachers have made Twitter accounts just to support this campaign. Many of them had a rough start learning how it works, but with a little practice all was well, and we have had a continued open forum ever since. To see the amount of people using #CHHSLetsTalk on Twitter is incredible to me, as it started only as an idea on a notepad in student council one lunchtime.

What’s next for you?

Crescent Heights is going to continue to support the Canadian Mental Health Association. As well, student council will further pursue endeavours in the future to keep the conversation going and raise more money toward this incredibly deserving organization. Other than that we are going to play it by ear and let this take us where it goes. This has been an absolutely incredible experience, and we hope that it can continue in whichever way it takes us. ❚