North Brunswick to address mental health issues, suicide rates in children

NORTH BRUNSWICK – North Brunswick Township may consider forming an advisory board to address the high suicide rate among children.

A proclamation for mental health awareness was read during the Sept. 16 Township Council meeting. It calls for an end to stigma, fear and discrimination against those who are dealing with depression, anxiety and addiction. Instead, the encouragement is for treatment, support, hope, healing and recovery.

Members of the North Brunswick Municipal Alliance Committee accepted the proclamation. Afterward, member Pete Clark said that during the committee’s next meeting, members will discuss the possibility of a partnership between the school district and the township to put a plan in place with parents, law enforcement and other community members to address suicide prevention.

“This is really important. Many of us are affected by mental illness through family members, friends. Everyone may look like you and I; it’s a hidden challenge that we have and we are all working on it together,” said Lou Ann Benson, director of the North Brunswick Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services.

Brian Zychowski, superintendent of the North Brunswick Public School District, said, “Mental health has been a serious issue and endeavor,” noting the No. 1 growing area of concern in schools is mental health and mental illness.

He said the district received a $750,000 grant from the State of New Jersey to partner with University Behavioral Health Care at Rutgers University. There are full-time psychologists and behavioral technicians available to students.

“This helps parents get away from the unbelievable bureaucratic nightmare of trying to get help,” he said.

Zychowski said mental health should not be a stigma; it is instead a barrier.

“We know it’s a major barrier and we want to provide an opportunity for all our students to remove those barriers,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.