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Cardinal O’Hara Launches Mental Health Initiative

Thanks to funds provided through a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, Youth Peer
Advocates (YPAs) from the Mental Health Advocates of WNY are speaking to students at Cardinal
O’Hara High School during an eight-week program. The classes aim at informing students on mental
health and self-advocacy.
The initial presentations on Feb. 22 and 24 covered the difference between mental health and mental
illness, myths and facts surrounding mental health, signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression as
well as when, where, and how to ask for help.
Each week for eight weeks, all students at Cardinal O’Hara will take part in the series during an
English class.
“I think this is something all teens should have,” Jacob Joldos, a sophomore at Cardinal O’Hara, said.
“It’s a good thing. The class teaches hope and says to reach out to other kids,” he added.
The classes are interactive with questions ranging from what students think the difference is between
mental health and mental illness, statistics on teens who struggle with depression and anxiety and the
fact that “mental illness is not scary,” Alyssa Erazo, one of the presenters, said.
“Mental health is the state of well being that allows you to cope with everyday issues,” Erazo said.
English teacher John Dunne called Cardinal O’Hara’s mental health initiative “pro-active.”
The presenters are trained individuals between 18-30 years of age who self-identify as a person with
first-hand experience with social, emotional, medical, developmental, substance use, and/or
behavioral challenges as a young person or have received services in any one of the child-serving
mental health systems, juvenile justice, foster care, special education, or addiction recovery.
Each two-person team uses their lived experience to promote recovery, wellness, and self-efficacy in
young people through the practice of youth-guided and family-driven approaches.

ADVOCATES: Two presenters from Mental health Advocates talk to an English class at
Cardinal O’Hara High School on Feb. 24, part of an eight week mental health initiative of
theMental Health Advocates of WNY. Ben Snyder, left, and Alyssa Erazo, Youth Peer
Advocates, discussed mental health, depression, anxiety and other issues with which
students often deal in their everyday life. Funds provided through a grant from the Mother
Cabrini Health Foundation.

39 O’Hara Road • Tonawanda, NY 14150 • (716) 695-2600 • FAX (716) 692-8697

If you would like to do a story, interview presenters or students or do a video of one of the
presentations that take place Mondays and Wednesdays, call Renee Orr at Cardinal O’Hara
High School, 716-695-2600, ext. 312 or email .

If you would like to receive more information about the YPA school programs, other YPA
community programs call (716) 886-1242 ext. 345 or go online at


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