MPS Events Focus on Well-Being of Students

MPS Events Focus on Well-Being of Students
Posted on 11/28/2018
This month, the Montclair Public Schools held two events addressing the well-being of students.

On Monday, Nov. 5, the district hosted, “Not Just Another Middle School Parent Workshop,” an informative program presented by Bill Lillis from the Partnership for Drug Free New Jersey. Close to 80 parents/caregivers from Montclair’s three middle schools attended the event at Buzz Aldrin Middle School.    

The emphasis was on understanding and addressing the epidemic of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and Juul, a specific brand of e-cigarettes. Juuls come in a variety of flavors and look similar to a USB drive. While Juul came out just a few years ago, it accounts for three quarters of all e-cigarette sales. Lillis expressed concern that its popularity is skyrocketing among the youth, especially middle schoolers. “Most of the kids, when you ask them what’s in them don’t know that they contain nicotine,” he said. “They’ll tell you they use it because they ‘like the flavors,’ that include fruit medley, mango, cool mint and even crème brulee without any regard to the health risks involved.” One pod contains about 200 puffs, or one pack of cigarettes. “The current evidence shows that kids who use these kinds of devices are four times more likely to begin using combustible tobacco, or to start smoking.” While it’s illegal to purchase any cigarettes or electronic devices including the Juul in the State of New Jersey unless your 21 years of age, kids are getting their hands on them.

Lillis stressed the importance of parents educating themselves about the threat of e-cigarettes and engaging their teenagers in conversations about the dangers, helping them develop skills to resist experimenting and usage. 

Workshop presenters pose for pic
Pictured from left: District Mental Health and Anti-Bullying Coordinator Andrew Evangelista, Buzz Aldrin Middle School Principal Jill Sack, former Governor Richard Codey, Senior Director Clinical Services, Mental Health Association of Essex County Marvin Gorsky and Mental Health Association of Essex County Family Support Counselor Emily Zelner.

The Codey Fund for Mental Health teamed up with the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Inc. to provide an in-service training session regarding suicide prevention for school administrators and faculty at Buzz Aldrin Middle School, on November 6.  

District Mental Health Coordinator and Anti-Bullying Specialist Andrew Evangelista spoke with Governor Codey in May to partner with the organization on providing training to the Montclair Public Schools staff. “The workshop was designed to equip all school employees to help identify at-risk students and prevent teen suicides by teaching staff how to recognize signs and/or symptoms of students with mental health issues,” said Evangelista.

“Additionally, the presentation educated staff about the rising suicide rates among youth in the U.S. Approximately 1-5 students ages 13-18 are affected by mental health issues, an estimate of about 10 million public school students across the country. In addition, the latest statistics reveal that half of the mental health disorders diagnosed begin before age 14 and 75% before age 24. The workshop reinforced the need for staff to be aware of the signs of emotional pain and to assist students and families in connecting with community resources.”

The Codey Fund for Mental Health was established in 2012 by Governor Richard and Mary Jo Codey 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 barrier between the people suffering with mental health disorders and the treatment that can change their lives. The Codey Fund supports organizations and programs that raise public awareness of mental health issues, work to overcome stigma, stereotyping and discrimination, and combat teenage suicide and depression throughout New Jersey.

“For students, the issue is not having the adequate skills to recognize that problems are temporary and that taking their lives does not solve them,” added Evangelista. “This presentation was able to provide faculty and administrators tips on being a trusted adult for students to come to, and the approach to take with a student at risk. Our goals are to learn together how to identify students at risk, help them before problems escalate, teach them students problem-solving skills and foster a positive school climate.”
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