Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Just a warning in advance... this post may be a bit lengthy, but SO worth it! I have so many social impact initiatives in the works that I am incredibly excited and proud of, and I have been dying to share them with y'all! Last Wednesday, I met with First Lady Marty Kemp at the Governor's Mansion in Atlanta to discuss mental health resource implementation, as well as to develop a state-wide campaign to implement into all Georgia Public Schools starting this upcoming school year.
First of all, Governor Brian Kemp proposed an additional $8.4 million of funding for Georgia's APEX program. After meeting with First Lady Kemp, we decided that this additional funding will be put towards adding some sort of mental health professional or counselor to public schools– a resource long overdue, if you ask me. These professionals are currently being introduced to inner and metro-Atlanta public schools, and will spread to include the remainder of the state hopefully by the start of the 2020 school year.
Adding this resource for students to be able to utilize will not only provide emotional support for those who may feel lost and overlooked, but provide a safety net across the state to ultimately decrease suicide rates. These quotas have risen to an unsettling rate, climbing an additional 16% since 1999, and the goal with the implementation of mental health counselors and professionals in schools is to identify, pinpoint, and solve a crisis before it becomes too late.
In addition to this specific resource, First Lady Kemp and I discussed something I realized recently that left me quite uneasy. In Georgia, all public schools celebrate 'Red Ribbon Week' annually to advocate for the end of drug abuse, however, no schools celebrate any sort of week, day, etc. for mental health awareness. I find this to be a huge problem, especially since in the county where I attended school, suicide rates far supersede drug abuse and overdose rates. With the rising numbers of recorded mental illness and crisis in youth, it seems, to put it simply, unsafe and unintelligent to overlook an opportunity to advocate for the positive mental health of adolescents.
First Lady Kemp and I outlined and discussed a (title in progress) 'Green Ribbon Week' to advocate for positive mental health in Georgia Public Schools, to hopefully be implemented starting this next school year. This week would follow similar guidelines as 'Red Ribbon Week', where students would complete different activities, raise awareness, learn facts and statistics, and ultimately play a part in being the solution! Obviously, more details are in the works with the Georgia Department of Education and Governor Brian Kemp, but I am so excited that First Lady Kemp was receptive of this idea.
Educating the public on mental health and related illnesses is the first step to solving a crisis that is plaguing the youth of today's society, and I am so blessed that I am able to use my voice for change in such a positive way. I always say, change is a fire, a fire starts with a spark, and that spark begins with a conversation; I am grateful our Georgia government is willing to have that conversation!