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Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council Advocates for Mental Health Awareness

Forum held to update community on progress around school presentations

March 30, 2017

Albuquerque, NM – Twenty Albuquerque high school students who serve on Mayor Richard J. Berry’s Youth Advisory Council are presenting the outcomes they experienced from leading a Breaking the Silence on mental illness initiative within the eight schools they attend on March 30, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Vincent E. Griego Council Chamber, located in the basement of One Civic Plaza NW.

During the community forum, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) teens will speak to the importance of participating in Breaking the Silence/New Mexico (BTS/NM) and the impact of presenting mental health lessons at the schools they attend, including:  Next Generation Academy; South Valley Academy; Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science; Del Norte High School; Valley High School; Early College Academy; and Albuquerque High School

The city-sponsored program is an outcome of the Creating Community Solutions Dialogue on Mental Health Youth Conference held last July in Washington, D.C. where six Albuquerque youth participated, including two representatives from the MYAC; three teens from Health Leadership High School; and one representing Generation Justice and Breaking the Silence / New Mexico (BTS/NM). The conference provided opportunity for youth around the country to share awareness activities in their communities, meet on Capitol Hill with state representatives and staff, participate in Mental Health First Aid Training, and provide input on national mental health policies and priorities for youth.

“Mental health has been marginalized in this country for far too long,” remarked Mayor Richard Berry. “I am proud these Albuquerque Youth Council Members have taken it upon themselves to address the stigma of mental illness and to promote prevention and early intervention among their peers and within the schools they attend.”

Through the MYAC-led initiate, 23 Breaking the Silence presentations in eight schools were held, reaching more than 430 Albuquerque students thus far during this school year.

BTS/NM offers a stigma-busting curriculum for upper elementary, middle and high school students, which focuses on mental illness and suicide. Through stories, interactive activities, and information, students become educated about mental illness and the importance of seeking professional help and peer support.

"It is critical that young people and their families understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment,” explained Michele Herling, executive director of Compassionate Touch Network. “BTS/NM is one of our core programs that educates teens.” She added that research has shown over half of mental health disorders have experienced onset by age 14 and that most people don’t seek help or get appropriate treatment for as long as 10 years after the problem has surfaced.