More than 100 students from Buena Regional Middle and High schools participated in AtlantiCare Behavioral Health’s Message of Hope activity May 4. The event is one way the ABH high school and middle school-based programs are marking Children’s Mental Health Week (May 3-9), Children’s Mental Health Day (May 4), and National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Throughout the morning, students used brightly colored chalk to write messages of hope on the sidewalks in front of and around their school buildings.
ABH High School and Middle School Youth Based Program leaders 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.”
“We’re pleased to participate in the sidewalk writings with many of our students,” said Moses White, principal, Buena Regional High School. “Many students are facing depression and challenges in their lives, or stress. A random kind word can change someone’s attitude at any time. At any point, someone could read one of these and it could their whole outlook for that day, or that week or that month. That’s the purpose of sharing these.”
Among messages students shared were the following:
“If our minds get out of shape, the rest of us will,” said Brynn Baran, a senior and cheerleader at Buena Regional High School. “Everyone deserves a little light on the darkest days.”
“Don’t give up hope. You are loved,” said John Weyandt, a senior, who added he appreciated the opportunity to create awareness.
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.”
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.
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.