Rock Island High School recently started its own chapter of the three-year-old The Gray Matters Collective.

The Gray Matters Collective is a local nonprofit organization that provides mental health advocacy and suicide prevention, which now has chapters active at six Quad Cities high schools (including Moline, Geneseo, Orion, Rockridge and AlWood), St. Ambrose University and Augustana College (where it first met in February 2019).

Having its own chapter at Rocky allows the high school to not only empower its students to have the tools to be mental health advocates, but also bring hope to those who are struggling, according to the Rock Island-Milan School District.

Haley DeGreve, a 2020 Augustana graduate, is founder and leader of The Gray Matters Collective.

Haley DeGreve, the founder of The Gray Matters Collective, trained Rocky student leaders on how to help their peers and how to talk about mental health. While they have more training to do in the future, they have started building the foundation necessary to learn how to lead with compassion, network with other schools, and handle stress, anxiety, or depression in a healthy way.

“By educating, building community, and bringing mental health awareness to anyone and everyone who needs it, we are working to create a world without suicide. Because every person matters,” said Michelle Greenwood, one of the high school chapter’s advisors. Currently, meetings are taking place every Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m.

The meetings provide a safe space for students to share things they need to talk about. There will be at least two adults available to talk to as well at each meeting if needed, according to the school. The chapter’s advisors are Michelle Greenwood, Kelly Preston, Andy Campbell, and Connie Hayek. All of which have been trained in the Mental Health First Aid Training.

DeGreve is a John Deere Communications Specialist and 2020 graduate of Augustana College. Throughout her education, she was inspired to start a mental health awareness and suicide prevention non-profit called The Gray Matters Collective in 2018.

The collective became a movement filled with hope, support, and healing for thousands – becoming a nationally recognized movement through the University of Michigan Depression Center. Since she began mental health advocacy, she’s spoken at many local schools, events, and workplaces to advocate against mental health stigma and educate crisis intervention.

DeGreve during her TEDxYouth talk on mental health on April 6 at Davenport Central High School.

DeGreve was a featured speaker April 6, 2022 at the TEDxYouth series at Davenport Central High School. You can see her talk, “Mental Health, Suicide and the Power of Community,” HERE.

A recent study showed that one in three high school students experienced poor mental health (most of the time or always) during the COVID-19 pandemic (37.1%) and during the past 30 days (31.1%). During the 12 months before the survey (done January-June 2021), 44.2% experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

During the 12 months before the survey, 19.9% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9.0% had attempted suicide, the study said. The prevalence of having seriously considered attempting suicide and attempting suicide was higher among female students than male students and varied by race and ethnicity.

The Gray Matters Collective will present a special event Tuesday, May 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., “We Are The Collective,” at the Rock Island Holiday Inn, 226 17th St. Tickets are $15 (a discount is available for those 18 and under), and the event aims to celebrate all the students making a difference with The Gray Matters Collective & Foster’s Voice in the Quad Cities.

They will have resource tables, speakers, appetizers and a cash bar. For tickets, click HERE.