Contacts:      
Jennifer Tornetta, (O) 609-569-7010, (C) 609-335-3446, jennifer.tornetta@atlanticare.org 
Betsy Woerner, (O) 609-748-7539, (C) 609-385-6361, betsy.woerner@atlanticare.org
Heather Costabile, (O) 609-653-0400 x112, heather.costabile@atlanticare.org                       

For Immediate Release:  May 1, 2017

Students to publicly share messages of hope
AtlantiCare’s Buena school-based programs to observe
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Day 

Who:              Buena Township middle and high school students

What:             To write messages of hope in chalk on the sidewalk outside of the schools’ shared main entrance.

When:            Thursday, May 4 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
                       Rain date is May 5 for Middle School students only.                                   

Where:           Buena Regional High School and Buena Regional Middle School
                      125 and 175 Weymouth Road, Buena, 08310

Details:           AtlantiCare Behavioral Health’s (ABH) high school and middle school-based programs are guiding students in marking National Children’s Mental Health Week (May 3 – 9) and Children’s Mental Health Day. On May 4, students will publicly share their messages of hope outside the shared entrance to the schools. The event is one of the ways ABH is marking Mental Health Month.

The High School and Middle School Youth Based Program leaders have encouraged students at the schools to share hand-written messages of hope, explained Cathleen Morris, LCSW, AtlantiCare Buena School Based Youth Program, director. “We asked students to write what they would say if they were speaking with a peer who was facing a mental health issue personally or who had a loved one facing a mental health issue,” she said. “We wanted them to have the opportunity to think about what they’d want to say if they were faced with this situation.”

On May 4, approximately 100 students who wish to share those messages publicly will get a pass from their school’s office that will allow them to leave class for a few minutes. “They’ll use that time to write their message in chalk on the sidewalk outside of the schools’ shared entrance,” said Morris.

2NDFLOOR, a confidential and anonymous helpline for New Jersey’s youth and young adults, supplied ABH with the chalk. ABH will share photos with 2NDFLOOR to be included on the organization’s online gallery of support messages.

“National statistics show four out of five youths who need mental health services across the nation, do not seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health issues,” said Morris. She said activity and the discussions ABH staff have had with the students over the last several months for this project are meant to enhance awareness among students, faculty and parents about the mental health issues young people face.

“Acknowledging there could be a problem makes a tremendous difference,” said Morris. “The sooner a student seeks and gets help, the better his or her mental health and overall well-being is likely to be. “We want students to understand that there should not be a stigma about mental health. Their mental well-being is just as critical as their physical well-being.”

Among messages students have shared on their hand-written suggestions were the following:

  • “Be yourself. No one can tell you you’re doing it wrong.” 9th grader
  • “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’  12th grader
  • “It always helps to talk to someone.” 9th grader
  • “Mental health is just as important as physical health. Going to therapy needs to become as normalized as going to the gym.” 12th grader
  • “If you talk, someone will listen.” 12th grader
  • “Stay strong. Be strong. Love yourself.” 9th grader

“More than 1,000 students will see the messages as they walk into or out of the school to start or end their days, or to attend activities,” explained Morris. “We’re guiding students in responding to potential situations. By sharing their messages publicly, they are likely helping fellow students are actually facing issues and need support.” 

About National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and to show that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth. Awareness Day 2017’s national focus is on the importance of integrating behavioral health and primary care for children, youth, and young adults with mental and/or substance use disorders. The 2017 national theme is “Partnering for Help and Hope.” Communities, national collaborating organizations, and federal programs across the country are busy planning local Awareness Day 2017 activities and events. 

About the AtlantiCare Behavioral Health Buena High School and Middle School Based Youth Services Programs
The AtlantiCare Behavioral Health High School and Middle School Based Youth Services programs are grant funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. ABH provides core services in schools, including employment, mental health, substance abuse, and learning support services; as well as recreational/social and family-involvement activities. The centers, located in each school, are open to all students Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the school year and during the summer. Program staff include a director who is a licensed clinical social work; a program manager, who has a Bachelor of Arts in social work; three Bachelor-level case managers; and a therapist who is licensed in social work. 

ABH also administers school based youth programs at Atlantic City High School, in Atlantic City, and Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing.

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AtlantiCare, a member of Geisinger Health System, is an integrated system of services designed to help people achieve optimal health. It includes AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, AtlantiCare Health Engagement, the AtlantiCare Foundation, and AtlantiCare Health Services. Its more than 5,500 employees and more than 900 physicians serve the community in nearly 70 locations. A 2009 Malcolm Baldrige Award winner, AtlantiCare was also included in Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare in 2010. ARMC became the 105th hospital in the nation to attain status as a Magnet™ designated hospital in March of 2004 and was redesignated a Magnet™ hospital in 2008 and 2013.