Speaking Up for Mental Health: Clint Ludtke

The first thing you notice about Clint Ludtke is his big, bushy beard. In a school full of fresh-faced junior high students, it stands out. Sometimes people stop to comment.

But it’s all for a good cause.

In early 2017, Mr. Ludtke organized the first “Spoke Up” for Mental Health Campaign at Richard S. Fowler Junior High School, where he teaches. The campaign, which led up to an 8 hour bikeathon in May, aimed to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation and get kids talking about mental health.

“We deal with mental health issues all the time as staff,” says Mr. Ludtke. “We see how it affects the kids. To me, it was just an opportunity to have some fun and also do something beneficial for the students.”

Thanks to the phenomenal efforts of his students, who canvassed the community, the school raised $47,000. But that wasn’t enough for Mr. Ludtke; he endeavoured to make the campaign a yearly event, with another bikeathon planned for May 2018.

His beard is visual incentive for the kids.

On the wall outside Fowler’s gymnasium, there’s a poster tracking how far the students are from hitting their goal of raising $50,000 for mental health–humorously called the “Beard Meter”–at which point Mr. Ludtke will shave it off.

The campaign gets the whole school involved; Fowler has almost 400 students and at least half participate in the bikeathon. “It’s a great way to spread awareness. For kids it’s hard to talk about that. It’s so important that we get the kids involved, to help break that stigma,” says Clint.

Organizing “Spoke Up” has highlighted the importance of engaging youth in discussions about mental health.  “We asked the kids how many of them struggled or knew someone struggling with their mental health and 85-90% of them raised their hands in all my classes. That was pretty eye-opening for me.”

For the second year of Spoke Up, Clint designated April as mental health month and every health class participated in activities related to the topic. He wanted to make sure the kids knew why they were raising money. “We have kids in our building for whom coming through the front doors in the morning, or just getting out of the car, is a big deal,” says Clint. “Sometimes I learn about the things these kids are going through, and I had no idea. There is some support, but not enough.”

Junior high, says Clint, is a pivotal moment to talk to kids about important issues. It’s when they begin forming strong opinions. His generation didn’t talk about mental health in school.

“Anytime you can get kids out in the community doing something it’s a good thing, but the educational component is the main point. That’s how we’ll make an impact. That’s how change will happen. With these kids. In 10 years we will see a major shift in society as they grow up.”

The second year of the event brought the school’s total to over $100,000 raised for the Foundation. Clint has high hopes for the future: he plans to expand the program to other schools so they can help even more people.

“It’s been a fun experience and I’m learning so much. I feel myself wanting to make more of a change in mental health. As an educator, I’m a lifelong learner and this has been so instructive. It’s for the kids I do this, and I’m happy to make an impact for them in some way.”

Community supporters like Clint are vital to helping the Foundation achieve its mission. We want to thank anyone who has dedicated time or dollars to our efforts this year. Every little bit makes a difference.

If you’re an educator, and want to host your own “Spoke Up” event at your school, the Foundation is now taking inquiries for the 2018-19 school year. Get your students involved in their own mental health while learning social responsibility. For more info, contact Dana at dana@mentalhealthfoundation.ca or by calling 780-342-7718.