School professionals and students across all seventeen school districts in York County, Pennsylvania formed an active student-led Youth Mental Health Alliance (Alliance) that serves as a catalyst “to end the stigma of mental illness, and to ensure that mental-health resources are available to everyone who needs them”—especially the county's youth. The group meets on a quarterly basis to create opportunities, spread positive awareness and engage their peers and community, using tools such as events, billboards, T-shirts, and social media to educate the public about mental-health issues and deficiencies in resources.
In early 2017, the Alliance arranged a town hall meeting with 80 students, representing every school district in York County, who met with county officials and state agency leaders to bring mental health needs of local students out of the shadows. In May 2017, the “Light Up The Night” Mental Health Fair, 1 Mile Fun Run, and 5K Glow Run event at Northeastern High School attracted more than 700 community participants.
During regular meetings, Alliance members gather in groups to discuss issues affecting students’ mental wellness. Recent topics have included social media and cyber-bullying, drug addiction, and stress from standardized testing. "Youth have created something amazing," elementary school social worker Kathy Minnich, PhD, told student members as they organized the Mental Health Fair/Glow Run event. "The silence will end here."
“The Silence Ends Here” or #TSEH – tag line of York County’s Youth Mental Health Alliance
The Youth Mental Health Alliance intends to create and execute a regular calendar of similar awareness events in the coming school year.