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Atlantic City High School Breaks the Stigma of Mental Health

High school can be a very stressful time when you have classes to pass as well as fitting enough activities for your college applications. Having a mental illness while in high school can be just as much a struggle, but it does not have to be. By having a center located in your high school to help you better cope with your mental illness, you will be able to get through high school without having to worry about anything.

Mental Illness Issues in Atlantic City

Atlantic City is considered a big place when it comes to those with mental illnesses according to the New Jersey Hospital Association. Because 40% of its residents are in poverty, it is critical to find a solution to those struggling with mental illness. A Rutgers Camden study says that childhood experiences for those in poor families can lead to developing mental health disorders in children. When these issues are addressed early enough, civic engagement and having a healthy family can lessen the effects of mental illness.

When Relia Williams was a freshman at Atlantic City High School, she was told by her aunt to see a counselor because she was having anger issues. At the time, she did not feel like she needed counseling because she did not feel like there was anything wrong with her. It was not until she joined a teen center at her high school that she started to smile a lot. Now a senior, she has become a much happier person as she felt like being around positive people was giving her a positive energy.

AtlantiCare Teen Center

Funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Family Services located at Atlantic City High School, the AtlantiCare Teen Center is an effort to help teens during an important moment in their life when they are developing into adults while struggling with a mental illness. This center offers individualized counseling as well as group therapy sessions free of charge. There are other teen centers in Atlantic County such as at Buena Regional High School, Oakcrest High School, and Buena Regional Middle School. In their own schools, students are met with a nurse, an advanced practice nurse, and a case manager who takes care of them when they come in for sick visits, STD, physicals, pregnancy tests, etc.

The director of the high school’s program, Craig Cochran, notices how students are being more open now with their vulnerability and facing their issues of anxiety and depression. Because so many students at the high school sees their friends struggling with the mental illnesses, they feel more comfortable being open with what they have and accepting that they need help.

AtlantiCare Teen Center’s Programs and Groups

AtlantiCare offers an eight week violence prevention program when referred to. There is also a ten week group called Lotus which helps you focus your energy on the present and how to reduce stress, anger, anxiety, and not feeling in control of your feelings. Teens will be able to build their self-confidence and teach you stress-reducing techniques to help you cope more with everyday situations. Another group is Make-A-Move which teaches you how to cook healthy and be more active to stay healthy. There are also groups like Woman2Woman and Men2Men that empowers young women and men to make healthy and responsible choices in their relationships, communication and decision making. RAP (Redirecting Anger Positively) is another group that teaches teens how to identify with their triggers, learn coping techniques and other skills to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Students are able to immediately see a doctor without having to worry about long wait times. According to the Hospital Association, Atlantic County has the third highest rate in the state for emergency room crises for those with mental illnesses. It is hard for adults who are out of work or do not make a lot of money to have access to care for their mental illness considering how expensive treatment can be. It is best for those to get into care while they are young and while there are cost free opportunities available in their schools that they have access to.

How Relia Williams is Doing Now

Relia Williams is now the president of the Youth Counsel with Atlantic City’s NAACP chapter. She feels like the staff at the teen center is like her second family. Williams would like to eventually work as a nurse or in mental health services. She applied to colleges such as Rowan University, Stockton University, Atlantic Cape Community College, and Morgan State University. Even though she does not need regular counseling anymore, she is still involved with the teen center and wants to bring what she has learned from the center to new students who join.

Williams said that she felt more open being able to speak to others about herself since joining the teen center. That it is not healthy to hold your emotions in if you have a mental health disorder since everyone will break sooner or later. By communicating with others about what you are feeling and learning how to better cope, teens will be able to manage high school and the rest of their lives going forward. If there are more teen centers in more high schools worldwide, teens would be in more control of their mental illness and would help break the stigma of being open about their ongoing struggles.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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