The New Hanover County Schools’ Public Relation Division launched the #YouAreNotAlone campaign recently to increase mental health awareness and help erase the surrounding stigmas. A new video entitled, “Buctown Lounge: #YouAreNotAlone” is part of the overall campaign designed to make more students, parents, and staff aware of the myriad of services and support systems that are available through NHCS and in our region.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), approximately one in five youth ages 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, stigmas around mental health issues continue and in some instances, these stigmas can cause people to refuse or be hesitant about getting help when it is needed.
NHCS is committed to supporting and helping students, staff, and our families realize they are not alone in dealing with mental health issues. The district offers a variety of mental health resources for staff and students. Support is available in each of the schools and our staffs work closely with mental health organizations that can provide more intense help when it is needed. Some of the resources include the “Life Savers” Employee Assistance Program, 70 counselors, 38 social workers, and over two dozen mental health professionals located at the schools. The Student Support Services Division (https://www.nhcs.net/divisions/student-support-services) includes an entire team designed to help students in all areas including counseling, school health nurses, bullying prevention, trauma and crisis support, and ensuring the resources are available.
In addition to Student Support Services, the district has strong community partnerships with many local mental health providers such as Trillium, Coastal Horizons, Wilmington Health Department, and others. Through the partnership with Coastal Horizons, a Wilmington Health Access for Teens (WHAT) Clinic is located at the four traditional high schools - Ashley, Hoggard, Laney and New Hanover. W.H.A.T. Clinics offer routine physicals, vaccinations and immunizations, substance abuse screening and counseling, and mental health counseling. These services are conducted on the campus of each participating school.
At Laney High School, School Social Worker David Hand has created a new peer support group for students called “The Buctown Lounge.” This program got its start from a former student’s graduation project. It offers a safe, judgment-free discussion space where students can talk about their struggles, learn more about their strengths, and connect with other students. Recently, participants of the group were interviewed about the concepts of encouraging mental health awareness and the #YouAreNotAlone campaign. They spoke about why they think it’s important that mental health awareness be brought to the forefront of the conversations in schools.
“I think with suicide, depression, and anxiety-- it’s not talked about, it’s very much pushed under the rug. It’s not something people want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable, but the more you talk about it, the easier it gets to talk about it,” said one Buctown Lounge Peer Facilitator.
Through the mental health support services and staff, and new initiatives like the Buctown Lounge, NHCS works to ensure that students, families, and staffs are aware of the services available and are not hesitant about seeking help at any time. The district values mental health awareness and it is an important aspect of helping all students succeed. #YouAreNotAlone.