CHADRON – During May, Chadron residents likely noticed C-Hill looked a little different during the evening. That’s because for the past four years in May, the C on C-Hill has been illuminated for Mental Health Awareness Month. Terri Haynes, Project Manager of the Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE) grant with Educational Service Unit 13, said the idea came about during discussions by local AWARE grant leaders.

“We wanted to do something similar to lighting Chimney Rock green in Bayard. Dr. (Caroline) Winchester had the idea of lighting the C, and I set out to figure out how to go about it,” Haynes said.

Haynes said the lenses of 200 solar lights were painted green before they were installed this year because the color represents mental health. The AWARE five-year grant to Chadron Public Schools, now in its fourth year, and the Chadron Rotary Club provided funding for the lights.

“We use the lighting of the C as the kickoff event for May as Mental Health Awareness Month.  Following the lighting, we have an awareness walk to City Hall for a proclamation. We reach out to the public and ask interested parties to join us. Our Middle School HOPE Squad is a significant participant,” Haynes said.

ESU 13 partners for the awareness month include Panhandle Partnership, Western Community Health Resources, Chadron Public Library, local mental health professionals, and Chadron State College. Haynes said several partner organizations and community members have an interest in continuing the C-Hill lighting project after the AWARE grant ends.

“Each year, it feels like the community and school conversations around mental health become more and more comfortable. Our youth are noticeably more comfortable than our adults. We hope that one day, our public is as comfortable talking about and treating their mental health as they are going for a dental checkup,” Haynes said.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator