MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities high school is sending a public message that mental health matters. A rock with those very words has been painted to mark Mental Health Awareness Month at Minnetonka High School.

Fellow classmates have been speaking up after far too much heartbreak.

A boulder in the school’s parking lot symbolizes hope and reminding students of a painful past with the initials of those who died from mental health issues.

From a father killing his family before killing himself, to a police shooting that killed a standout athlete and a 15-year-old who died by suicide after a long struggle with depression – those are just a few recent tragedies to hit Minnetonka High School.

“It’s really a bigger piece who is still here. How are they struggling and how can we help them?” Kendall Rude said.

Students Kendall Rude and Kiera Birdwell have come together to form MHS Wellness.

“High school is an incredibly stressful time, there’s no denying that,” Birdwell said. “It’s important that students feel supported whether that’s by the school or by students or by each other.”

Minnetonka has a dedicated wellness website and guidebook for families.

“Every student has mental health. Some students are struggling with it, some students are doing fine with it, but everyone needs to pay attention to it as a part of who they are,” said Dave Bierly, a high school counselor.

The school is sending support from the top down.

“We need to all make sure that the overall well-being of students is the No. 1 goal,” Bierly said.

A subject once rarely discussed is now out in the open, on display to lead students to some relief.

“Our class of 2019 has grown pretty strong over what we’ve been through. Still, there’s so much need to do more,” Birdwell said.

To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, MHS Wellness has also created what they call a calm walk at the high school. It’s a space to take a step back and take a break. They’ll also bring in therapy dogs this month before testing to help calm nerves among students.

Liz Collin