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5th grader in Cobb County using wrist bands to fight stigma around mental illness

What started as a class community service project would grow into a personal mission.

ATLANTA — For everything a new school year and 5th grade brings, Takari Tatum has been most excited for the opportunity to simply see more people. For him, it’s his opportunity to help.

He carries a bag of bracelets he’s made around Vaner Elementary School in Cobb County. 

But, what started as a class community service project has grown into a personal mission for Tatum - "fighting mental illness one bracelet at a time."

The bracelets serve as a reminder for those who wear them that mental illness is real, they are not alone, and help is available. Tatum encourages people to talk to a teacher, a family member, a counselor, or even a friend.

He also encourages people feeling anxious or stressed to just “Snap It.” Snapping the bracelet is to remind them to simply calm down and take a deep breath.

“I thought it was just going to be a small project,” He told 11Alive. “I had no idea how big it would get, even go global.”

The 10-year-old recently won a leadership award usually reserved for students 16 and older. He's the youngest person to win the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Youth Leadership Award for the state of Georgia.

But, while his message has managed to reach tens of thousands of people, he's just getting started.

Tatum’s campaign began as a fourth-grade community service project in his Target class at Varner Elementary.

His teacher, Laurie Mendenhall, said she’s impressed with his dedication, adding "he has taken this project to levels I never expected. “

Tatum started making the bracelets because of everything he and his family were going through at the time.

“My aunt died of COVID and I was really stressed out,” he said. “Then my grandpa passed away too, which was a really sad and hard time for our family.”

Tatum told his grandma he had an idea: honoring his family by bringing awareness to those dealing with hard times.

Since then, he’s been focused on showing compassion, offering a solution, and taking away a stigma about conversations around stress and anxiety.

He's even managed to help helped his grandma through her loss too. “It’s made me slow down and see work through things in my life too,” she explained.

Tatum now partnering with National Alliance on Mental Illness and reaching people all over the country.

He's 10-year-old who already sees the most fulfilling opportunities are about helping others.

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