I doubt that anyone will dispute the fact that our schools are becoming more concerned with mental health issues that so many of our students and families are experiencing. From anxiety to substance abuse to suicide, schools across New Jersey are incorporating more components of social emotional learning into their curricula than ever before. In Monmouth County, we recognize that this is not a battle that we can win alone. Inspired by Superintendent Joseph Isola of Howell Township Public Schools and comprised of superintendents, clinicians, and educators from over fifteen Monmouth County school districts, the Monmouth County Schools Partnership for Wellness is on a mission to strengthen partnerships with parents/guardians and educators for purposes of helping as many kids dealing with mental health issues as we can.
On Thursday, October 3, 2019, over 500 people came together at Brookdale Community College for the Monmouth County Schools Partnership for Wellness’ Symposium on Mental Health and Wellness. The event was designed to engage parents/guardians in the conversation about mental health and wellness for their children. The evening began with organizations that provide mental health and services lining the hallways and lobby so that attendees could see what resources are available for them, especially those located in Monmouth County. Then, a dynamic keynote address that centered around the theme of creating a culture of connection was delivered by Ms. Alisha De Lorenzo, founder and owner of Living YES, LLC. After the keynote, parents were able to select breakout sessions that were facilitated by experts in their respective fields. Topics included stress and anxiety, LGBTQ+, Mindfulness, social media and substance abuse, trauma, raising resilient kids, and an introduction to suicide prevention. The last session for the night was a panel discussion made up of all the evening’s presenters.
To make this night possible, The Monmouth County Schools Partnership for Wellness solicited local and state organizations for sponsorship. In the end, thanks to the generosity of the event’s sponsors, all those in attendance received a tote bag containing contact information for multiple mental health and wellness resources, pens, notepads, and ~ most importantly ~ a sense that they are not alone. Sponsors for the event included Ocean First Bank, Hackensack Meridian Health, the Monmouth County Education Association, Public Consulting Group, Effective Schools Solutions, New Jersey School Boards Association, and Monmouth County Freeholder Director, Mr. Thomas Arnone.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And while the Monmouth County Schools Partnership for Wellness may not necessarily be trying to change the world, it is trying to make a difference in the lives of children by being committed to building a strong, well-informed community that supports mental health and wellness while eliminating stigmas. The October 3rd event was the first of many, with another symposium already planned for Monmouth County teachers in spring 2020. The goal of the committee is to keep the conversations going so that the right information can be shared with as many people as possible. #BeYouBeWell