GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Some Greenville County students are addressing mental health concerns among their peers.

The students are working to tackle the issue by joining forces with the South Carolina Regional Education Center Advisory Board along with Upstate non-profits and businesses.

One Greenville County student said there need to be more conversations about mental health, and more people need to get on board.

“It is very important to tackle this issue right now because we are losing so many people to mental illness and they feel like they can not talk about it and it’s a really big arising issue and it will only get worse if it’s not acted on immediately,” said Rhea Bijoor, a senior at Riverside High School.

“It’s quite a serious issue. We’ve had a number of suicides over the last couple of years, and just an uptick in the number of students reporting issues with anxiety. Teachers seeing an uptick in anxiety issues, and also difficulties just generally with either, not being able to handle emotions or really withdrawing. Feeling unmotivated and having difficulties coping with stress,” said Dr. Ellen Hampshire, Coordinator, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support at Greenville County Schools.

It’s an issue Bijoor said hits close to home.

“Unfortunately there was a death a couple of years ago due to suicide at Riverside High School, and it kind of left a lasting dark cloud over the school, and it became a real thing because not many people know about it and not many people know the real consequences and what can happen if you don’t talk about it and tell your feelings to one another,” Bijoor said.

It’s the reason why Bijoor and other students spoke out passionately earlier this month at an event called “Unmasking Mental Health”.

“I wanted to be a part of the change in the stigma on mental health. I wanted to be a part of spreading the awareness in all schools especially in teens and students in South Carolina in Greenville,” said Bijoor. “And because this is a rising issue, and if we don’t act on it soon, it could get a lot worst when people don’t talk about things, don’t have conversations, don’t get to express their feelings. So, I want to be a part of the change. Me along with other high school students.”

The district, non-profits, and organizations are working on the issue.

“We are working with the Well-Being Network, they’re wonderful, The Phoenix Center, Mental Health America, the YMCA. Just a lot of great organizations and nonprofits, even our sheriff is a part of that organization,” said Nacole Hause, SC Commerce Regional Education Center Advisory Board. “So, it’s just wonderful to see community leaders just working together to bring it full circle so that we really understand the dynamics.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I started a lot of work in this being an Army Veteran understanding post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety,” Hause said. “Some of those factors in 2020 with isolation and the pandemic,” she said. “A lot of people went to isolation especially an extrovert might have a difficult time because they need that communication–that relationship,” she said. “So, we really started seeing that it was happening to the student body, and some of the students were struggling, and it was very similar to what a military veteran may go through. So, we just really saw that it’s need it to have this dialogue,” she said.

Bijoor believes the dialogue is needed.

“Yeah, I think the pandemic has been hard on a lot of people on a lot of students are struggling mentally, and they don’t feel like they have an outlet to express themselves, and I think that it’s really important that people need to talk about this, and have conversations with one another, and you know, spread the awareness about it because there is a big stigma in mental health and people feel like they can’t talk about it,” Bijoor said. “I feel that it’s important that everyone knows that they’re not alone.”

Bijoor said she hopes change happens soon.

“Bringing everyone together–bringing all students, teachers, parents, faculty, family–everyone together to act on this soon, to prevent more tragedies from happening, because this is an arising issue, it’s serious, it’s important, and it needs to happen now, or it will never get better,” Bijoor said.

Hause said on November 21st, the students will go before the Greenville County delegation about the need for more mental services in the schools, the need to spread awareness about 988, and why money is needed to address it all.