Tuesday’s Health and Wellness Fair at the Payson High School offered students a chance to attend sessions on suicide awareness, eating disorders, meditation and depression.
The event was started three years ago by high school art teacher George Conley. In college, he had worked with mentally ill patients and so recognized when kids came to his class showing signs of depression, he said. Conley approached Superintendent Casey O’Brien with an idea for teaching kids that mental health disorders weren’t strange and they can get help.
“He said ‘OK’ and we started with a half day anti-depression day,” said Conley.
The event has now blossomed into the all-day, multi-session Health and Wellness Fair the high school put on Tuesday Sept. 13.
Local businesses and non-profits supported the event. Sysco food services provided lunch for all students attending. The Payson Fire Department, Southwest Behavioral/Rim Guidance, Payson Regional Medical Center, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Payson Parks and Rec, and the Gila County Health Department, along with other groups offered information for students in the Wilson Dome during the lunch break.
To open the fair, Conley and his committee hired keynote speaker Monte Selby.
Known as “education’s songwriter,” Selby uses music, guitar playing and basketballs to “help people find their song,” his Web site explains. (www.monteselby.com)
Selby told students he comes from a family of songwriters. Songwriters use two tools to get a song to “stick in your brain.”
The first tool: define a main idea, said Selby. The second is to use patterns.
“The brain loves patterns. Great songwriters use rhyme and phrases that are similar in a pattern the brain wants to recognize,” said Selby.
Research, done by dentists, shows patterns can change in 21 days if people stick to practicing, said Selby. He illustrated his point using basketballs.
As a child, Selby dreamed of playing for the NBA. His father had played for a couple of NBA coaches so he asked his dad what it would take to learn to play for the National Basketball Association.
His dad started him out dribbling. Selby did this for days, gradually his dad added more ball handling techniques to his practice. Through the dull, repetitious exercises, Selby learned to handle a basketball like a Harlem Globetrotter.
He told the kids, “When you can play the whole game without looking up, your patterns will make a big difference.”
Selby’s message of these two themes, finding a main idea/dream and then using patterns to reinforce moving in the direction to reach that goal, segued students into the day’s breakout sessions.
“If you leave a session with a good idea and practice it for 21 days, that becomes your new pattern,” said Selby.
Before heading off to breakout sessions on suicide awareness, eating disorders and coming to terms with loss, three friends took a moment to give some feedback on the presentation and day.
Gabrielle Sandreho a junior who recently moved to Payson from Goodyear liked that Selby inspired her to live life to her fullest.
“My graduating class (in Goodyear) is 1,400. My old school doesn’t do anything like this,” she said.
Rishele Shoults, a sophomore who grew up in Payson loved the music.
“I knew the songs before anyone else,” she said her face beaming.
“He was really good. We live by patterns in the brain,” said Dakota Way.
Since starting these events, students have come to Conley to tell him they’re doing much better now that this issue is out in the open, he said.