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Teen Mental Health Screening and Referral Fund

The Teen Mental Health Screening and Referral Fund was established by Gerald and Mary Alice Ressler to help support programs that identify teens at risk of experiencing mental health difficulties including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts; and then refers them to providers who can assist them.

Gerald and Mary Alice have always shared a passion towards education and mental health. While raising three kids of their own, they had meaningful careers working with people of various ages. Mary Alice developed an educational therapy program for school-aged children and youth at Philhaven, a behavioral health center, then taught English as a Second Language to elementary students in Cornwall-Lebanon School District. Gerald, after 30 years as a clinician and administrator at Philhaven, became the Executive Director at Samaritan Center in 2009. It was during his time at Samaritan Center that Gerald and his staff recognized the need to preemptively identify at-risk teens and developed the TeenHope program.

“Mental health disorders can disrupt school performance, harm relationships, and lead to suicide – the second leading cause of death among adolescents.”- From the 2021 PA Youth Survey – Lancaster County Report

In 2013, with the support of school district administration, TeenHope began a pilot partnership at Penn Manor High School to provide a teen mental health program that would screen for depression, anxiety, and suicide risk of students. The program’s goal then, and now, is to educate teens and provide resources to normalize the conversation around mental health.   

Today, TeenHope has grown as an educational and screening process to work in eighteen schools across 16 school districts.  In 2022, TeenHope screened 2,724 students, identifying 679 who were considered at-risk.  Of the 679 students, 272 reported thoughts of self-harm or had suicidal ideation. This work to promote the emotional and mental wellbeing of students will continue thanks in part to the Teen Mental Health Screening and Referral Fund.

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