A Message from Deputy Mayor Julie DeLaurentis

The pandemic has raised awareness of mental health. I’ve learned the first step is to acknowledge that you or someone you know needs assistance.

To Our Harrison Family,

The pandemic has raised our collective awareness of mental health issues.

Mental Health issues and accessibility to treatment became dear to me in 2013, when I was helping the Mullica Hill Women’s Triathlon Club’s “End the Stigma Campaign”, the initiative fundraised for the nonprofit, Bring Change to Mind. This organization was co-founded by actress Glenn Close, and its mission is: To end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. While doing this work I had an ah-ha moment – I realized that so many amazing, resilient people struggle daily with mental health issues, often in silence.

Last month’s launch of 9-8-8, the new 9-1-1 like lifeline specifically for Suicide & Crisis, brings sharp focus to the growing need to get people help. It is critical that mental illness be seen clearly for what it is, a public health issue, no different from any other. Below are some Mental Illness statistics.

Statistics on Mental Illness*

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experience mental illness each year.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
  • 20.2 million adults in the US have experienced a substance use disorder and just over half had a co-occurring mental disorder.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 2nd leading cause of death in youth aged 10-24.   Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.

With these statistics it’s very likely that each of us knows someone, works with someone, lives with someone or is someone with a mental health issue. Further, with the resources currently available, any one of us can help identify and support others and ourselves suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. Although each illness has its own symptoms, below are some common signs and where to find available resources to get help for a friend, family member or oneself.

Common Signs of Mental Illness in Adults and Adolescents*

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior, or personality (“lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Common Signs of Mental Illness in Young Children*

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

* From National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

How and Where to Go for Help

From what I’ve learned, the first step is to acknowledge that you or someone you know needs assistance. The next step is to reach out to the wide range of support resources available. We’ve put together a page on the township website of local, regional, and national Mental Health and substance abuse support agencies and organizations.

Many people are successfully treated and move forward from mental health and substance abuse issues. Helping others and ourselves understand mental health and become mentally healthy is another way we are Harrison Strong!



Julie DeLaurentis
Your Deputy Mayor