This Wednesday, students from across Idaho will have the opportunity to join with teachers for a mid-morning school walkout in solidarity against school violence.

While we understand student motivations for wanting to walk out, NAMI Idaho encourages Idahoans to instead consider conducting a “walk up”, where students, teachers, parents and others can walk up to individuals who may need mental health assistance, yet are too scared or apprehensive to get help.

“When we start conversations, they can lead to solutions,” Michael Sandvig, NAMI Idaho President, said. “The stigma associated with asking for help, seeking help and funding for resources for those individuals needing help, is a heavy burden in communities across Idaho.”

Sandvig said that walking up and extending a hand of friendship can lead to more productive dialogues and solutions than simply walking out of class.

Students and adults can take steps now to assist others possibly living with a mental illness, while simultaneously helping to end the stigma of mental illness which often prevents people from getting the help they so desperately need:

1. Increase mental health awareness and availability of counselors in schools. Students should be encouraged to seek help for themselves or a friend. School-based mental health interventions have also proven extremely effective in engaging students who would not otherwise seek help.

2. Train school staff, administrators, parents and youth, and provide the tools necessary to have conversations about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and where they can turn to for help. Far too often, when families are most in need, there isn’t a clear pathway to getting help.

3. Develop a comprehensive response program for youth who have demonstrated behavioral issues including involving family and mental health providers. Take steps to avoid expelling and suspending students as this only exacerbates the situation.

4. Increase the ability of the mental health system to be proactive in reaching out to youth, particularly those with the most serious conditions. Young people in distress will not seek help, so there needs to be mobile outreach responses that are funded and easily available. This requires sustained and expanded funding for coverage for mental health, not cuts.

For a copy of the NAMI National position paper on gun violence and mental illness, please visit