Mental health matters: Torrey Pines students lead Yellow Ribbon Week

Torrey Pines High's PALs and ASB spearheaded this year's Yellow Ribbon Week.
(Jeffrey Owens)

Yellow Ribbon Week was held at Torrey Pines High School Sept. 13-17, a week to raise awareness about suicide prevention and stress the availability of mental health resources for students who are struggling.

In prior years the week was held in March but this year PALs (Peer Assistance Listeners) students planned the week to honor September’s National Suicide Prevention Month. The school’s ASB also wanted to get involved this year to have a greater impact on campus.

A student gets love from a therapy dog.
(Karen Billing)

“It really was a hard adjustment for some students to be back on campus,” said senior Ashton Nguyen, president of PALs and coordinator of Yellow Ribbon Week. “Our focus is on bringing compassion and kindness to our campus.”

Jeffrey Owen, the PALs advisor, said the week was completely student-driven and Ashton and the students were very motivated and went above and beyond in their planning.

Falcons Toby Thorpe, Min-Young Bang, Jack Tiernan and Evan Patrick on Wear Yellow Day.
Falcons Toby Thorpe, Min-Young Bang, Jack Tiernan and Evan Patrick on Wear Yellow Day.


“I think mental health, coming out of COVID, is something that we really need to be attentive to,” Owen said.

As part of the week’s activities planned by students, eight therapy dogs from Love on a Leash were out on the quad during lunch on Friday, Sept. 17, providing students with an instant mood refresher.

A prevention presentation was shown during the school’s student connectedness time and PALs decorated the campus with yellow ribbons and posters. Posters read: “It’s OK to not be OK”, “You are not alone” and “Just keep swimming” and pointed students toward an available mental health resource.

One poster board on campus asked students: “What lifts you up?” Students wrote their answers on feathers that were made into two big wings.

Among the Falcon plumage: music, sports, surfing, a good night’s sleep, running, pets, surrounding themselves with positivity, being close to family, the beach, sunshine, oat milk, sushi and Timothée Chamalet.

Senior Mirabel Hunt in front of the "What Lifts You Up?" wings
Senior Mirabel Hunt in front of the “What Lifts You Up?” wings

Srishti Thapar, PALs member and Yellow Ribbon Week coordinator said this year a big focus was placed on encouraging students to reach out for help when they need it.

The PALs created 2,832 mental health resource cards to pass out during the week. The laminated cards read: “This card is a lifeline. It’s ok to ask for help” with advice to take the card to a counselor, teacher or staff member and a list of resources available to them.

“Even if we reach just one student, we feel like we can make an impact in some way,” said Srishti.

PALs President Ashton Nguyen and Srishti Thapar, coordinators of Yellow Ribbon Week.
PALs President Ashton Nguyen and Vice President Srishti Thapar, coordinators of Yellow Ribbon Week.