👩‍🎓 Efforts underway to raise awareness about student mental health
👩‍🎓 Many NJ students may feel sad or hopeless
👩‍🎓 Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for kids, young adults

University students in discussion in the classroom
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With the school year about to come to a close in New Jersey, students will soon be on summer break.

That is a cause for concern according to Elizabeth Clemens, the executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

She said according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior survey, more than 1 in 3 New Jersey high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row, which is an urgent call to action.

Awareness of the risks

“We need to be doing more for our youth, educating them on what is mental health, how to take care of your mental health, but also what are the risk factors and warning signs for suicide,” she said.

The latest suicide data from the CDC shows there were 688 suicide deaths in New Jersey in 2021.

She said ever since the pandemic suicide rates have moved higher and “it’s the 3rd leading cause of death for our youth and young adults ages 10 to 24.”

Steve Frost, ThinkStock

Clemens said pandemic isolation has certainly been one factor and “for some of our youth we saw them feel so isolated for a really long time, and it was a hard transition getting back to pre-COVID.”

Social media is a factor

She also noted, “we have to look at things like social media, and how can we improve the use of social media.”

She said more must be done in New Jersey schools to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

“We have programs like Gizmo, which is talking to kindergarten students, elementary school students about the feelings of sadness.”

She said other mental health programs are geared to kids in middle and high school and they are all offered without charge to schools across New Jersey.

KatarzynaBialasiewicz GettyImages

Reducing stigma

Clemens stressed we need to emphasize “initiatives that reduce stigma around mental health and create more transparency with students and parents and reinforce the notion that it is a sign of strength to see help.”

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