The healthcare industry emphasizes the importance of early intervention when it comes to health problems. For this reason, mental health is now playing a prominent role following the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health disorders used to have a negative stigma attached to them, which stopped many people from getting the care they needed to survive. Hayley’s Voice of Hope is a non-profit organization that began in 2017 with the aim of addressing this problem. Hayley Acherno, a 17-year-old who suffered from mental health problems, was hidden from those who knew the severity of her issues, and ultimately she took her own life.
Lisa Acherno, the founder of the organization, explained that school districts are massive, so it’s not evident that they offer the resources and support for mental health issues. After Hayley’s death, Lisa worked hard to increase awareness and raise funds for mental health initiatives. The organization has since funded special training sessions for local school administrators in Hillsborough County. They also provided their training program called PREPaRE 2 for counselors and school psychologists. This year, they distributed 150,000 pamphlets on mental health awareness, suicide, bullying, and sexual harassment.
Lisa hopes to expand PREPaRE 2 and the pamphlet to schools in Pasco County and eventually Pinellas County next year. The training program, used for trauma response, has highlighted the need for resources concerning mental health issues and has revealed how many school districts require support. Mental health disorders are prevalent, but with the right resources and approach, they are not insurmountable obstacles.
On Tuesday, May 23, Spectrum’s Bay News 9 will air a special documentary that further discusses the challenges people face when dealing with mental health issues.