Atlantic County Students Partake in Mental Health Awareness Event

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BUENA, N.J. -

Students from three schools in Atlantic County, including Buena Regional High School (BRHS) participated in the second annual Messages of Hope event as part of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and Mental Health Awareness Month.

The AtlantiCare school-based behavioral health program gives students the opportunity to help motivate and support their peers who may be battling mental illness.

Students spent Thursday morning, May 10th, outside writing uplifting messages on the sidewalk. 

“We started this last year. We do know that in these days kids can get depressed," said BRHS' principal, Moses White.

"There [are] a lot of things going on in their lives, things are not perfect, they even see things on TV that makes them unsure about their world. So, this is just a way for us to say ‘Hey, look somebody’s got your back, somebody’s thinking of you.'”

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More than 40 million people in the United States suffer from mental illness. It can affect anyone at any age.

“Studies have found that one in four kids have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed, but most often there’s a delay in treatment of about 10 years," said BRHS' AtlantiCare director for school-based programs Cathleen Morris. "So, we just wanted to raise awareness and positivity for kids to let them know that help is available and they can help each other with just a kind word.”

Students wrote things like, "No rain, no flowers," and "Just keep swimming."

“In the English classrooms we asked the students to write something that they felt was inspirational," said BRHS English teacher Joann Marchese. "We talked about the fact that every day is not a good day and it’s nice to know that someone has been there, someone has a kind word for you, other people are feeling what you’re feeling.”

The response from students was overwhelming.

“I, myself, suffer from mental illnesses and I want people to hear my messages and I want to help people the way they have helped me in the past," said BRHS senior Aly Fabbri.

“I have friends who have suffered through depression and other mental illnesses and I know how you can really help somebody," said BRHS sophomore Dakota Hill. "And a message might. Somebody can walk by and it might save their life. You never know." 

“My message was ‘Hold your fist in the air, it’s the end of the war, victory is yours.’ I just feel like I want people to know they are not alone in the fights that they are going through, the struggles that they are facing," said Fabbri.

This year, more than 130 students submitted messages and about 78 were chosen. BRHS officials say the program has created a positive atmosphere for the high school and that they plan to continue taking part.

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