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James Plastiras Director of Public Information New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-6540 james.plastiras@omh.ny.gov

May 07, 2018

Office of Mental Health Recognizes High School Mental Health Club in Westchester County

‘Walter Panas Warr;ors’ Honored for its Pioneering Student-Involved Approach to Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Illness

Albany, NY – The ‘Walter Panas Warr;ors’ - a mental health club at Walter Panas High School - has been honored at the New York State Office of Mental Health’s "What’s Great in our State 2018" event. The annual event, held May 8 in Albany, celebrates the people and programs making a difference in the field of children’s mental health.

The ‘Walter Panas Warr;ors’ club was inspired by a group of students in 2015 who had the desire to “stomp out the stigma of mental illness.” With their counselor’s support, they created a club with the goal of educating and changing perceptions about mental health in their 1,000-student school in northern Westchester County. It was recognized for its mission to "inspire, lead, and educate others about Mental Health and Wellness" while combating stereotypes through school-based training and education.

“The Warr;ors club is a perfect example of how students can make an incredibly profound impact on the stigma associated with mental illness. Their dedication and inspiring ideas have helped change the climate of their school and create a dialogue about mental illness and wellness,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan. “We thank the Warr;ors and each of our honorees for their hard work and commitment to children’s mental health.”

The Warr;ors have presented at school assemblies, written a short play detailing the experiences of students in various places on the mental health continuum, and have decorated the hallways of their school district with uplifting and informative posters about mental health. They’ve even been asked to speak at community events, including a statewide New York State Nurses Association conference in 2016.

It was nominated for creating a climate of profound respect for one another that has encouraged students to share their struggles and strategies for coping.

“The Warr;ors is one of a kind! I am beyond pleased and so proud of my student's for all the work, courage and dedication they have invested in our club,” said Warr;ors Advisor, Melissa Smith.  “Being recognized by New York State is such an honor and we are excited to share the success of our program with people across the state in hope of inspiring others to do similar programs in their own schools."

For more information on the Warr;ors, visit https://bit.ly/2K1WDF1.

‘What’s Great in Our State’

‘What’s Great in Our State’ is an annual event hosted by the New York State Office of Mental Health, the New York State Council on Children and Families, and a number of children’s mental health advocacy organizations in order to celebrate the individuals and programs that are successfully advancing the cause of children’s mental health in New York State. The event features a reading of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement proclaiming the week as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a ceremony recognizing our honorees, and an art show featuring artwork created by children receiving services from New York State’s mental health system. This year’s event will also feature two keynote speakers and a moderated round-table discussion featuring the awardees.

The event coincides with Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a national movement that seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and to show that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth.

For more information on the partners involved with this year’s ‘What’s Great in Our State’ event, visit https://conta.cc/2ppIfwS.


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