Living Columns & Blogs

How Centre County’s Jana Marie Foundation sparks conversations about mental health

A generous heart with the desire to help all. A vibrant personality and endless energy. A creative mind that sees things differently.

Although I lost my sister, Jana, to suicide nearly 8 years ago, I can still envision her zest for life and her passion to help those around her. I also can remember the pain she often felt and hid so well from so many. Throughout her life, Jana fought a courageous battle against depression, but ultimately it took her life at the age of 30.

Sadly, discussions around mental health and suicide are often met with silence due to the stigma and shame that still surrounds the topics. It is the very thing that prevented my sister from reaching out for help.

That is why Jana Marie Foundation generates conversations that highlight the importance of mental, emotional, and social well-being, giving a voice to those most vulnerable and fostering understanding, acceptance and community action.

Since our inception in 2012, Jana Marie Foundation has harnessed the power of creative expression and dialogue to spark conversations, build connections and promote mental well-being among young people and their communities.

The middle and high school years are full of exploration, growth and change, often leaving adolescents to grapple with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide. Through innovative programming, Jana Marie Foundation strengthens the connections young people have with their peers, family and educators, lending support to celebrate achievements and providing comfort during times of adversity.

According to the most recent Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) Data, 1 in 6 adolescents in grades 6-12 have seriously considered suicide, 1 in 8 have a plan for suicide, and 1 in 10 have attempted suicide. At a time when our youth are feeling overwhelmed and at times hopeless, it is crucial that parents, teachers and caregivers are equipped with the knowledge of warning signs, the ability to engage in courageous conversations, and access to available resources.

As trained facilitators in evidence-based programs, such as Mental Health First Aid (Adult and Youth Modules) and QPR Suicide Prevention Training for Gatekeepers, the Foundation ensures that parents, teachers and adults have the most relevant information to help support youth through their transitional years.

By raising awareness to mental health concerns, making resources available to parents, and equipping young people with practical tools and techniques to build resilience and overcome adversity, we can open minds and save lives.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we invite you to get involved! To learn more, please visit www.janamariefoundation.org.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health concern or crisis, help is available. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Marisa Vicere is the president and founder of the Jana Marie Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in Centre County.
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