students share their stories...
My name is Elizabeth Heinemann and I am a part of the Red Bank Regional class of 2020. During the Winter of my senior year I was anonymously reported to The Source by a group of friends because they were worried about my health and well-being. At the time I was struggling with my eating habits, and while I knew I had a problem I was unwilling to pursue help for myself. While it was hard for me to admit out loud what I was dealing with, when I was called down to The Source a small part of me was extremely relieved. I had never been to The Source before then, but I knew someone had heard me, and that at The Source someone would listen to me. I had been struggling for months and getting called down to The Source was the first moment where I felt that I could finally lift my head high enough above water for air.
When I first started seeing Becky on Wednesdays I was teetering on a dangerously close edge to developing a health-threatening eating disorder. If you saw me from the outside you would have never known the entirety of what I was dealing with, and I am not a single or uncommon case. I love my parents, but like many other teenagers I didn't feel comfortable enough to approach them about what I was going through. The Source provides a way for the multitudes of teenage boys and girls like me who desperately need help but don't have the ability to receive it, have no idea where to start, and are too deep in, to even know they have a problem. Having The Source as a resource through my high school years didn't mean I was "sneaking around" my parents, but as a young adult I was able to make the conscious decision to go to Becky's office every Wednesday and receive help on my own terms and at my own pace without the pressure of others watching me. Every single day I'm so grateful for what Becky and The Source has done for me, which was simply just listen. Meeting with Becky wasn't an extremely intense, rigorous event, but she allowed me a safe place to express everything I was feeling about how I looked, what I ate, and the deep rooted issues I had simply by saying "I'm here for you, I care about you, and I want to help you". Being a teenager and accepting the fact that you have a problem is almost impossible to do, and it’s almost always embarrassing, but after going to The Source for therapy, I'm proud to say that I've taken advantage of the blessing that it is. I know there are countless other students like me who have a hard time admitting they're going through an issue, but are so grateful for the support The Source has given them, simply by being a place they are heard. The Source is singlehandedly the most vital resource Red Bank Regional has to offer to its students. In my four years, I learned more about myself and felt safest in the two months I spent with Becky.
The second week of March I had planned to tell Becky that after weighing myself 5 times a day for months, I went my first week without doing so. I never made it to her office because of the Coronavirus, but to this day I have not weighed myself since. The Source saved me. The Source has saved my classmates. To those reading this letter, resources like The Source have saved your siblings, daughters, sons, nieces, and nephews, and to take away The Source would be taking away their lifeline.
To take away The Source would be an extreme disservice to every single teenager who has and will walk through the halls of Red Bank Regional, because you are taking away a chance at life, support, and the difference between someone coming to school for help or feeling as if they have no where to go.
Save the Source, because it saved me, and because it has probably saved someone you love too.
I’m Lyanna Smith and I am about to enter my second year at RBR. Last year was kind of a crazy year for me. This is the second school I’ve ever been to, so I was trying to learn how to get used to a bigger environment and I live out of district so I didn’t really know anyone. On top of that, I was dealing with things at home and struggling with events from my past. So as a freshman that felt lost and unsure of what to do next, The Source was a huge help for me.
During school days when home life weighed so heavy on my mind that I couldn’t focus or was on the verge of tears, I was able to go to The Source and get myself together for the rest of the day. On days where school became overwhelming and I was surrounded by stresses caused by tests, grades, or classmates, The Source room was a peaceful place away from it all. Top Club helped me adjust better to my first ever new school. I was able to make friends and get more comfortable with peers and teachers through it. During the pandemic while I was trying to adjust to virtual schooling, deal with internal conflicts and home life, I was still able to get help from The Source and to help stay grounded through it all. I’ve even been accepted into other clubs through The Source to help me branch out and meet more people during the pandemic (virtually) that made me feel less alone.
So despite the nerves I may have about physically being in school again, I’m honestly excited to go back to school for the first time in a long time. The people at The Source helped me further discover and push myself so I had some great experiences despite how difficult the year was. This time I am feeling ready and I know if there’s ever a moment where I stumble, the people at The Source will be there to help ground me again. Please do not take away places like The Source for students in New Jersey.
The Source is an incredible program at RBR. In fact, it is what makes RBR, RBR. Let me tell you a bit about myself. My name is Lauren Sabella and I have since graduated from Red Bank Regional and am now a freshman at Rowan University studying music therapy. My first experience with therapy was when my parents got divorced and I was forced to go. I used to be ashamed and embarrassed, but I continued going both inside and outside of school, seeing my own private therapist and a counselor at RBR. My stepbrother committed suicide during my sophomore year, just two days before he was supposed to receive inpatient treatment. My entire life changed and I didn't want to go back to school. It was very difficult, but my counselor helped me and informed my teachers. Everyone was so understanding and patient with me. Both college and high school students struggle so much with everyday stresses on top of school work and mental health issues. All schools should have a program like The Source. Not only did it offer me emotional support, but also financial. I received a scholarship from The Source to help towards my tuition at Rowan. I picked my major, music therapy, just a few months ago after realizing that I want to help others through a form of therapy. If it weren't for The Source and my school piano teacher, I wouldn't have even auditioned for the music therapy program. I used to be ashamed of getting help, but I am no longer. We all need a hand in this world, especially teenagers. Mental illness is so prevalent in today's society with all of this social media. It is a lifelong struggle and while teenagers are growing, they need support from professionals. I think current and future students deserve to have The Source just like I did. My stepsister is an incoming sophomore at RBR and I don't want her to not have resources. All students deserve to have these resources. Therapy saves lives.
Letter written on August 31, 2020 in response to potential loss of funding :
Dear Governor Murphy,
On your website you state that you believe “health care is a right, not a privilege, and (that you) will work to ensure that all New Jerseyans have access to affordable health care.” With respect to mental health for youth, in a press release last year you asserted that your administration is “striving to do all that (it) can to improve health and wellness for our students”, and that your specific legislative efforts seek to “enhance student understanding, attitudes, and behaviors related to mental health to promote well-being.”
While, politically, words like these are certainly convenient to say, unfortunately, your administration’s recent actions do not square at all with your rhetoric.
As you are no-doubt aware, your budget calls for elimination of economic support for 91 school based support programs statewide.
One of the most prominent recipients of that assistance is The Source of Red Bank Regional High School (located in your home county of Monmouth). I served on the board of the Source’s 501c3 fund-raising arm, known as the Source Foundation, for a number of years and was President of the Foundation for 2 years. The Foundation’s volunteers dedicate their time and talents because they are inspired by the Source’s extraordinarily dedicated staff. The Source’s professionals provide compassionate in-school counseling to at-risk children who many times have nowhere else to turn. Furthermore, the Source’s efforts are totally aligned with your stated commitment of supporting the mental health, well-being, and educational success of students. Specifically, such services include: Suicide Prevention Individual, Group and Family Counseling Substance Abuse Counseling Conflict Resolution Preventative Medical, Dental & Eye Care Academic Support and Tutoring Scholarship Programs.
In case you were unaware of your administration’s actions, under the envisioned cuts, the Source would lose about $277,000 in annual state funding, the removal of which will all but shutter their operation.
You must be aware that today’s youth are struggling with a variety of mental health issues at a nightmarish rate. Against that background, it is astonishing that you would choose to send a clear message that student well-being is, in reality, not a priority, despite what you’ve said publicly. While these cuts may make a minute dent in the budget deficit – think of the human cost. How sad it would be if all our government in Trenton can offer is a round of thoughts and prayers after an otherwise preventable student tragedy occurs in the absence of such programs.
It shouldn’t have to come to that. You still have time to act. You have a chance to walk the walk and show that, in this state, student mental-health is more than just a political talking point. Please reverse this decision to cut funding from valuable programs like the Source.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Gregg T. Abella