According to NAMI.org, the website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 5 youth between the ages of 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year; only half of these children receive any treatment for their disorder. With suicide listed as the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, mental health education and support is clearly becoming a necessity. NAMI believes that schools have the ability to step in and offer the needed information and support for students.

Ending the Silence is a research-based NAMI program that has reached thousands of children across the United States. This program consists of a 50-minute presentation and two presenters. One presenter shares about mental health, different resources and ways students can help friends who are struggling. The second presenter shares about their own mental health diagnosis, their story and their road to recovery.

NAMI Richland County was able to bring Ending the Silence to Ontario High School in mid-November.

“We are very grateful to NAMI Richland County for bringing Ending the Silence to Ontario”, Amy Kurtz-Nagel, the school social worker and abuse prevention coordinator, shares. “Students learned the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and were given a variety of resources. This program encourages students to support one another and to seek help if needed. We want our students to know that it’s ok to talk about mental health concerns and this program provided this opportunity as well as tools and resources to help them address any issues they might be experiencing.”

Mary Kay Pierce and Annabelle Coffman from NAMI Richland County shared that this was the first official Ending the Silence program they were able to bring to local schools. “This program presents an incredible opportunity to the schools,” Annabelle beams. “This program not only brings great information and resources; it brings a testimony of a young adult who have been through it and are on their road to recovery. It is so inspiring and hopeful to these students!”

The Ontario High School Students also seemed to enjoy having this program brought to them as several students anonymously shared their thoughts:

  • “I liked how they made the topic comfortable to talk about”
  • “It was interesting and easy to understand”
  • “I liked the descriptions on how to help a family member or friend”
  • “I liked the lady that gave her story to show us not to give up and that sadness is not an emotion we should hide”
  • “I think it is so great to learn about it so you know what to do if it happens to a friend”
  • “It was so cool that someone who had some of these conditions told us about it”

Ending the Silence is primarily geared toward middle and high school students and is completely free to the schools. If any Richland County school is interested in having this program come to their campus, they may contact Annabelle Coffman at [email protected] or call Mary Kay Pierce at 419-522-6264.

Photos: NAMI Richland County

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