Ocean City School District, Ocean City, New Jersey
Challenge: After losing two students to suicide inside of a year, the Ocean City School District wanted to develop a thoughtful and strategic approach to better address the mental health of all its students.
Initiative: District leaders reached out to the community—including teachers, retirees, administrators, board members, parents, police and clinicians—to launch a series of public meetings about teen suicide. The meetings resulted in an action plan with three goals: communication, collaboration and consistency. Access to mental health care professionals in the community is now widely available, and there are regular parent programs. The district has also opened a wellness room in the high school, where students can seek advice.
Impact: Nearly 650 high school students have completed the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide’s Lifelines curriculum, which encourages “friends to help friends.” The wellness room saw more than 8,000 student visits in its first year, with an average of eight to 10 visits per period.
Advice: “Securing resources and overcoming stigma present significant challenges in addressing mental health and wellness,” Superintendent Kathleen Taylor says. “Schools can work to overcome that by talking about it openly and often with students, parents, the community and the board.” By fostering partnerships, more resources become available.