The Burlington County Association of School Administrators proudly announces its commitment to join the Burlington County Commissioners’ initiative in becoming a “stigma-free” county as it pertains to supporting mental health initiatives for all members of a school community.
This county-wide effort, to normalize conversations pertaining to mental health, will need the collaboration of many organizations within the county and school districts can play an integral role in this endeavor. As such, the Burlington County Association of School Administrators (BCASA) formulated an Ad Hoc committee to begin the necessary work in order to ensure all students, staff and families are supported in their various needs for mental health interventions.
“The number of youth in need of these interventions is a call to action,” said Joe Langowski, president of the BCASA.
One in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a mental illness; suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24; every day in the United States over 5,240 students in grades 7 through 12 attempt suicide and four out of five have given clear warning signs.
“For school officials, these are not just statistics, these are students, someone’s son or daughter and possibly a member of our school community, and we are committed to removing any perceived stigma associated with seeking mental health support,” Langowski said.
This month, local boards of education will be adopting a uniform resolution to establish their school district as a stigma-free zone for mental health awareness. Two county-wide student programs are scheduled for May, dubbed Mental Health Awareness Month. These programs will introduce students to the term “Stigma-free” and provide an opportunity for school officials to hear directly from the students what types of county-wide support may benefit them or their peers.
“The ability to normalize conversations pertaining to mental health will hopefully break down barriers our families may encounter and allow students to feel supported and speak openly about what they need to feel healthy,” said Carol Birnbohm, chair of the Stigma-free Ad Hoc committee. “Many school districts in the county have programs in place to support our students socially and emotionally, but there is always room to do more, especially for such an important initiative.”
“By coming together as a county, we will have a platform to share our best practices with one another and be able to respond to the ever-changing mental health needs of our students and staff,” Birnbohm said.
Some examples of programs include Shamong’s SEL Summer Reading Community Outreach program, Maple Shade’s Teen Mental Health First Aid Training, Lenape Regional High School District’s Wellness Rooms, Burlington Township’s bi-weekly team meetings for at-risk students, Evesham’s Literacy and Leashes program and the creation of improved counseling suites in Tabernacle and Southampton, offering creative ways to support students in person and virtually throughout the school day.
The BCASA is looking forward to the countywide adoption of this resolution and destigmatizing the mental health needs of those in our communities.