Twenty-five local middle and high schools are now able to lift up youth voice and leadership to address rising rates of youth depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation through $25,000 in grants to launch a new or deepen an existing school-based Aevidum Club. Funds were provided by Lehigh and Northampton Counties and promoted and distributed through Resilient Lehigh Valley. Participating middle and high schools received $1,000 each to create or implement an Aevidum program that aims to empower students to break the `stigma around depression, suicide, anxiety, and other mental health issues facing teens through peer-to-peer messaging, events, and activities. Aevidum means “I’ve got your back,” and was created by students in Lancaster, PA, after a classmate died by suicide.
“We are in a youth mental health crisis with teenagers reporting troubling increases in depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. With a collaborative and cross-sector approach, Resilient Lehigh Valley is committed to improving mental health among our youth. By expanding Aevidum programs, we can empower more youth to shape solutions and equip more schools to better meet students’ mental health needs and ensure all students feel a sense of belonging,” says Beth Tomlinson, co-founder of Resilient Lehigh Valley and senior director of community resilience at United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Schools interested in starting an Aevidum club can contact Mary Pritchard, Aevidum’s Director of Outreach, at [email protected].
According to the Pennsylvania Youth Survey, more local youth than ever before report struggling with their mental health on a regular basis. In fact, 43% of Lehigh Valley middle and high school-aged youth report feeling depressed most days in the past 12 months.
To directly address this issue, Resilient Lehigh Valley distributed $1,000 to each of the following 25 schools to support an Aevidum program and faculty advisor:
- Allen and Dieruff High Schools in Allentown School District
- Bangor High School in Bangor Area School District
- Catasauqua High School in Catasauqua Area School District
- Easton Area High School in Easton Area School District
- Executive Education Academy Charter School
- Eyer Middle School and Emmaus High School in East Penn School District
- Innovative Arts Charter School High School and Middle School
- Jewish Day School of the Lehigh Valley
- Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts
- Liberty and Freedom High Schools and Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem Area School District
- Nazareth Area High School and Middle School in Nazareth Area School District
- Northern Lehigh High School and Middle School in Northern Lehigh School District
- Northwestern Lehigh High School in Northwestern Lehigh School District
- Parkland High School in Parkland School District
- Roberto Clemente Charter School
- Salisbury High School in Salisbury Township School District
- Whitehall High School in Whitehall-Coplay School District
- Wilson Area High School in Wilson Area School District
Any middle or high school in Lehigh or Northampton counties with an Aevidum program or interest in developing one qualified for the funds. Schools will also assign a staff representative to join their county’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, which actively works to reduce youth and adult suicide rates in the Lehigh Valley.