Governor Richard Codey announces comprehensive plan to combat teen suicide and depression throughout New Jersey; Teenage suicide up 70% nationally
Citing “a growing epidemic touching too many families across our state”, NJ State Senator and former Governor Richard Codey joined with parents who experienced the tragic loss of their children to suicide, mental health experts and educators to announce a new, 3-pronged initiative to wage war against teen suicide and depression in New Jersey.
“Too many young lives are being lost,” declared Governor Codey. “New Jersey must act NOW to better equip all school employees to help identify at-risk students and prevent teen suicides and other mental health related incidents in their schools,” Codey declared. “School workers such as secretaries, security guards and teacher’s aides need the tools and training to recognize bullying, early warning signs and symptoms of mental health issues, and the proper steps to resolve conflict and prevent potential disasters.
Gov. Codey emphasized teen suicide is a real crisis in our state. “The loss of any one child is a debilitating experience,” Codey explained. “Sadly, across our nation and our state, the statistics tell us more and more families are facing this horrific reality.” From 2013 to 2015, according to the New Jersey Youth Suicide Report, 2,731 people age 10 to 24 were treated in a hospital emergency department for non-fatal suicide attempts/self-inflicted injuries – an increase of 37.3 percent. And according to the New Jersey Dept. of Health, from 2007 to 2016 the rate of suicides in NJ among children ages 10 to 18 rose by 16.6 percent.
Longtime mental health activists and founders of the Codey Fund for Mental Health, Governor Richard and his wife Mary Jo Codey are dedicated to reversing the disturbing trend of teenage suicide and depression. Codey’s new initiative calls for:
- Legislation to establish a new $1 million competitive grant within the NJ Department of Education (DOE) for school districts to hire mental health counselors. The NJ Department of Health will determine which school districts are awarded grants. The DOE will report on progress by 2021;
- Specialized training workshops to non-licensed, auxiliary school staff who interact with students; and
- Creation of a statewide “Teen Suicide and Depression Task Force” charged with developing additional methods to combat teen suicide and depression and report back to the State Legislature by July 2019.
Speaking at the Liberty Middle School in West Orange NJ, Gov. Codey introduced two parents – Dianne Grossman and Rachelle St. Phard – who shared their heartbreaking stories involving bullying, depression and mental illness, as well as their hope that this new initiative will reduce future tragedies.
Dianne Grossman of Rockaway NJ, who lost her daughter Mallory at age 12, spoke out about the real dangers of bullying and offered her support of the workshop initiative. “Auxiliary Staff workshops are a must,” she stated. “Our vigilance on educating everyone on signs and symptoms of Mental Health issues should be one of our primary focus and concern.” A website www.MallorysArmy.org was created “to raise funds to support, the Mallory’s Army Foundation, and the Grossman family in their fight against bullying,” and asks the community to become “a soldier of Mallory’s Army.”
Rachelle St. Phard, talked about how her son Coby’s “future was cut short when he was taken from us due to mental illness and died by suicide.” The Fly High Coby fund and website www.flyhighcoby.org was established by the parents of Coby St. Phard of East Windsor NJ to honor the memory of his 18 years.
Senior Director of Clinical Services of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Marvin Gorsky spoke about the need to better equip our schools. “Senator Codey’s workshop initiative will give our schools more trained eyes and ears to identify and prevent bullying that can lead to tragedy, and support the young people susceptible to depression who are targeted.” The association is dedicated to removing the stigma associated with emotional and mental disorders.
Gorsky explained how new workshops will target and empower non-licensed school professionals to help recognize the signs and symptoms of students who may be suffering from mental health issues.
THE CODEY FUND FOR MENTAL HEALTH was established in 2012 by Governor Richard and Mary Jo Codey. The organization was founded on the beliefs that access to comprehensive care and quality treatment for individuals with mental illness is a right, and that the stigma associated with mental illness is the single biggest barrier between the people suffering with mental health disorders and the treatment that can change their lives.