TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Hailey Ascierno’s mom is on a mission to stop the stigma 365 days a year.
“This has got to be treated as another condition,” Lisa Ascierno said, “Nothing that should be ashamed of.”
Lisa Ascierno started Hailey’s Voice of Hope after her 17-year-old daugther took her own life in 2017.
“Hailey was funny, she was smart, she was quirky, she was brilliant, she was artistic and didn’t want anyone to worry about her,” Ascierno said.
With a rising number of students experiencing anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said “mental health is our pandemic.”
CDC studies found 37 percent of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and 44 percent said they felt sad or hopeless during the past year.
At a news conference Monday, Davis said Hillsborough Schools are focused on early intervention.
“It can’t be a band aid approach,” he said.
Mental Health specialists from a mobile response unit from the Tampa non-profit Gracepoint have already evaluated more than 1,000 students, Davis said. A major objective to prevent unnecessary Baker Acts.
“Is it one that needs a clinician to be able to engage them or the students just need a breather to be able to unwind?” Davis said.
This program aimed at helping students thrive academically, socially and emotionally launched at the start of the school year.
“To know there’s an actual mental health professional helping these students when they’re in a crisis,” Ascierno said. “I can’t say enough good things about.”
Hailey’s Voice of Hope does its own outreach in Hillsborough Schools to teach about the signs, symptoms and available resources for mental illness.
“If we save one person,” Ascierno said. “Hopefully when we see Hailey again she’ll say, wow guys you did a really good job.”