More than 7,400 students in six area school districts received a treat with a message this month: snack packs with two lifesaver candies, resource cards listing organizations offering help for mental health issues, and a note that said “Be a lifesaver, let someone know help is within reach.”
The packs, distributed for Mental Health Awareness Month by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Wayne/Pike Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI), went to students in grades 7 through 12 in Wayne Highlands, Western Wayne, Wallenpaupack Area, Delaware Valley, Forest City Regional and East Stroudsburg school districts.
Western Wayne students received their snack packs the week of May 24. The students were glad to get their treat and this important information.
“This past year we saw so many changes in our daily lives, it was hard for everyone, but especially for young people,” said Carol Kneier, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, manager Wayne Memorial Community Health, a member of NSPI.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, between April and October 2020, at the height of the pandemic, hospital emergency departments saw visits from children for mental health needs rise sharply from the year before – up 24% for children aged 5-11 and 31% for young people 12-17.
“Our goal is to increase awareness about mental health and let students know that they are not alone and help is always available. The resource cards were designed to be handy – to fit in pockets and wallets—and to be conveniently accessed if and when needed.”
NSPI groups involved in the effort also included the Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention and Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health and Developmental Services.
Kneier reiterated the national message of NAMI, “Together, we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives — a nation where no one feels alone in their struggle.”
For more about Mental Health Awareness Month, visit the NAMI website Mental Health Month | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness or for information about Pennsylvania’s Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan, visit PA SSPP.