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Student Mental Health Matters

Buffalo Toronto Public Media is raising awareness of teen mental health through programs, special reports and resources.


Public media stations across New York State are focusing on youth mental health and suicide prevention. Public media is renowned for its thoughtful and thorough approach to public affairs and social issues, and Student Mental Health Matters touches on topics as wide-ranging as adverse childhood experiences, stress and self harm, suicide prevention, and the role of social media. 

Buffalo Toronto Public Media's multi-platform content is building awareness around youth mental health work in our area and getting communities connected to the resources they need.

Teachers are called upon to address student mental health issues—now more than ever.  So New York PBS stations created a toolkit with video-based resources to help teachers promote student well-being. Student Mental Health Matters: A Toolkit for Educators is designed to equip educators, school staff, and school mental health professionals with critical knowledge and strategies needed to support the mental well-being of their students. Using PBS Learning Media, teachers will better understand and address self-harm among students. The toolkit features expert perspectives, student voices, and real-world strategies and solutions, including when to call in specialists. Student Mental Health Matters features expert perspectives, student voices, and real-world strategies and solutions, including when to call in specialists. To further raise awareness, public media journalists are focusing coverage on the topic as well.   

Student Mental Health Matters brings together public media across the state to focus on a single issue across multiple platforms—broadcast television, radio, educator resources on PBS LearningMedia, online streaming, social media, live events, and more. 

Funding for this program is provided in part by the New York State Education Department.


Now Return Us to Normal | Stream Now

Now Return Us To NormalNow Return Us To Normal | Stream Now

A filmmaker has flashbacks to years at a behavior modification school in rural Utah.

In this ultimately healing personal essay, filmmaker Leslie Koren and her diverse classmates confront the trauma brought on by their years at a behavior modification boarding school. Pressing ahead to alleviate her crippling PTSD and shame about her time at a behavior modification boarding school, a high-school ice hockey star asks questions for which there most likely will be no answers, attempting to connect the dots of her disjointed memories. She speaks with her parents, former staff, and former classmates - a Latinx dancer; a young professional from NY; a Lakota youth activist; and a lawyer- and have their own varied memories. She questions what kind of youth deserves this treatment, if any. Through this process, like many with PTSD, she wonders if she will ever be a reliable narrator of her own story, and if not, how much does that matter? 

Watch Saturday, November 18 at 5pm on WNED PBS.

Director’s Statement by Leslie Koren

Director Leslie Koren calls former staff in Utah

At 16, I was struck by severe clinical depression and, seemingly overnight, transformed from a healthy, socially-active teenager to someone unable to function. I was put on suicide watch. Overwhelmed by anxiety and leery of institutional options, my parents sent me to the Oakley School, an isolated reform boarding program for “problem youth,” near Park City, Utah.

Its glossy brochures promised a radical reversal of dysfunctional behavior – a fixed kid. I went to Oakley voluntarily, but others were taken from their homes by adult escorts and were unable to contact anyone. Twelve years after graduating, I experienced a post-traumatic attack as buried memories flooded to the surface – and this became the catalyst for the film.

I began reaching out to classmates, eager to find connections to a shared experience. The deeper I looked, the more complicated the past became. The focus of the film is my confrontation with the trauma of being sent away for my depression. I reunite with four alumni for the first time in over a decade. Intimate character portraits are woven with VHS tape material, dream-like sequences of me skating in ice hockey gear; my parents, trauma specialists and experts in the field, and my own search for answers. As a filmmaker, I am not only interested in the inherent tension of acute trauma, but am equally concerned with its reverberations, which in my experience flow forward in a person’s timeline and often displace pieces of the past.

Read more on Film Freeway.


HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: YOUTH MENTAL ILLNESS features first-person accounts from more than 20 young people, ranging in age from 11 to 27, who live with mental health conditions, as well as parents, teachers, friends, healthcare providers in their lives, and independent mental health experts. The film presents an unvarnished window into daily life with mental health challenges, from seemingly insurmountable obstacles to stories of hope and resilience. 

Through the experiences of these young people, the film confronts the issues of stigma, discrimination, awareness, and silence, and, in doing so, helps advance a shift in the public perception of mental health issues today.

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Mysteries of Mental Illness explores the story of mental illness in science and society. The four-part series traces the evolution of this complex topic from its earliest days to present times. It explores dramatic attempts across generations to unravel the mysteries of mental illness and gives voice to contemporary Americans across a spectrum of experiences.

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Losing Lambert: A Journey Through Survival & Hope | Stream Now with WNED PBS Passport

Losing Lambert: A Journey Through Survival and Hope
Rating: TV-PG

Explores the heart-rending questions left in the wake of suicide. Kathy O'Hern Fowler, who lost her 16-year-old son to suicide in 1995, spent years struggling with the loss and grief. However, the life-altering experience led her to advocate for other parents who tragically find themselves in the same position. The touching and insightful the film explores the heart-rending questions left in the wake of suicide, interviews parents struggling to cope with the pain and stigma, and offers hope for the future of suicide prevention. At a survivors meeting, parents speak candidly about the loss of their children - their darkest hours - in an effort to raise awareness about teen suicide and to help others find compassion and support. The documentary also focuses on the promising medical research being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University. Their preliminary findings show impulse-control problems in the brains of suicidal teens, an impressive discovery researchers hope may someday lead to better identification and treatment for at-risk teenagers.

Independent LensTikTok, Boom.
Expires: 2023-10-24

Gen Z influencers and experts help dissect influential social media platform TikTok.

1 / 3 Videos
TikTok, Boom.
Independent Lens
TikTok, Boom.
Facing Suicide
Facing Suicide
Facing Suicide


Student Mental Health Matters | A Toolkit for Educators | Grades 9-12, 6-8 

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Student Mental Health Matters: A Toolkit for Educators is designed to equip educators, school staff, and school mental health professionals with critical knowledge and strategies needed to support the mental well-being of their students. Digital media resources — produced by expert mental health organizations and public media sources — cover suicide prevention, stress and anxiety, self-harm, adverse childhood experiences, and social media, and offer:      

  • Expert perspectives from mental health professionals, school administrators, and educators aimed at helping teachers better understand a topic;
  • Student perspectives that reveal the lived experience of elementary, middle, and high school students;
  • Strategies that provide real-world applications for teachers’ practices.

Mind Frame | A Toolkit for Educators | Grades 6-8

Destigmatize Mental HealthMind Frame

Mind Frame is a peer-hosted collection of videos targeted at middle school audiences to help de-stigmatize the act of talking about mental health and illness. Topics include Depression, Anxiety, Suicide Prevention, Substance Use Disorder, and Wellness - shared by one of two hosts, Rylee Davis or Griffin Greear.

Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids | A Toolkit for Educators | Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 

Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids

Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids is a series of video and print resources that educators can use to teach their students critical mental health and coping skills. The videos and support materials, which are also available in Spanish, are centered around the following five areas:

  • Understanding FeelingsBuilding a foundation for healthy coping 
  • Relaxation Skills Skills for stressful situations 
  • Understanding ThoughtsHow thoughts impact feelings and behavior 
  • Managing Intense EmotionsSkills for coping with intense emotions 
  • MindfulnessImproving self-awareness and decision-making

Hiding In Plain Sight- Youth Mental Illness | Discussion & Event Guide for Schools | Grades 9-12

Hiding in Plain Site

Hiding in Plain Sight follows the journeys of more than 20 young Americans from all over the country and all walks of life, who have struggled with thoughts and feelings that have troubled—and, at times—overwhelmed them.

This discussion guide is intended to foster meaningful conversations in your classrooms and wider communities about topics covered in Hiding in Plain Sightand to deepen educator and student understanding. The guide is filled with tools to help you plan for teaching about the mental health topics explored in the film, plan screening events for your students, and spark discussion. The guide overviews educational materials made in association with the film for middle and high school educators and students. The lessons and activities described are available in Ken Burns' Classroom.


Community Partner Websites

Erie County

Erie County Department of Mental Health 

Erie County Department of Mental Health plans, administers and coordinates a countywide integrated system of community based mental health and children’s system of care programs to address the treatment and recovery needs of individuals. 


National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Buffalo & Erie County 

NAMI Buffalo and Erie County is an affiliate of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated helping individuals and families affected by mental illness.  

Child and Youth treatment services are offered by a variety of providers, and NAMI has compiled a list of providers that focus on children and/or have special children and youth programs. This list of agencies and providers include a range of services including counseling, psychiatric care, intensive care, assessments, home-based services, support groups, and school-based interventions. 

  • Children, Youth and Trauma-Informed Care Resources | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network 

Children and youth mental health and well-being can be affected by individual, community or global trauma. To understand some of these effects, ask your service provider about how they use trauma-informed practices. There are additional resources at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website. 


The Pride Center of WNY | Youth Services 

The Price Center’s youth program offers services that include drop-in services in a safe space to socialize, one-on-one family support, and linkage to affirming medical, mental health, legal, and other services and care. 


GLYS WNNY | Youth in Care Services 

GLYS of WNY provides monthly social and discussion groups within several care facilities in Western New York. 


BestSelf Behavioral Health | Young Adults Programs 

BestSelf Behavioral Health is part of an innovative pilot program called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). CCBHC Outpatient Clinics offer fully integrated mental health services for children and adults including mental health, peer services, and targeted case management. In addition to CCBHC, BestSelf offers numerous evidence-based therapies, specialized programs and services that can be found on their website. 


Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County 

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County fosters a community of hopefulness, safety, and shared responsibility to prevent suicide by increasing awareness, promoting resiliency, and facilitating access to resources. The coalition is a group of community stakeholders including mental health, substance abuse, prevention education, and county leaders. A full list of members and their webpages can be found here: 


Crisis Services 

Crisis Services is ready to support you through moments of urgency. In addition to a 24-hour crisis hotline, you can call their specialized Crisis Counseling Program Hotlines to best respond to individual needs. 

  • Buffalo & Erie County Crisis Hotline 716-831-7007
  • Kids’ Helpline 716-834-1144
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline call or text 988
  • Chautauqua County Hotline 1-800-724-0461
  • Further resources 


Horizon Health Services | Family & Adolescent Services 

Horizon Health Services, Inc. is a non-profit that provides healing and  hope for individuals and their families dealing with mental health disorders. A full list of outpatient family and adolescent services from Horizon Health can be found using the link above.


Spectrum Health and Human Services | Crisis and Re-stabilization Emergency Services (CARES) 

Spectrum Health's C.A.R.E.S. team is available to provide support to families with children and teenagers in crisis, 24/7. Call 716-882-HELP.


Mental Health Advocates of Western New York 

Mental Health Advocates of Western New York is committed to providing essential non-clinical services that address the needs of individuals, families, and communities living with mental illness. Through awareness, education, prevention and intervention services, they promote the mental health and wellness for families and children in homes, schools, and workplaces. 


Niagara County

Niagara County Department of Mental Health 

The Niagara County Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services works to engage and power people to achieve optimal health and quality life using community and individualized approaches.



Cattaraugus County 

Cattaraugus County Community Services 

The Cattaraugus County Community Services webpage details locations and services available to residents. 

The Cattaraugus County Department of Community Services uses the Single Point of Access model for assessment of referrals for children and adolescents. Referral packets and more information can be found on their website. 


Chautauqua County 

Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene 

The Mental Hygiene Department plans, develops, and provides accessible and comprehensive mental hygiene services to residents of Chautauqua County. 


Orleans County

Orleans County Department of Mental Health 

The County Department of Mental Health offers a full range of services designed to meet the mental health needs of area residents. After hours counseling and crisis intervention can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Care and Crisis Helpline at 585-283-5200.


Genesee County

Genesee County Mental Health Department 


Southern Ontario 

Canadian Mental Health Association 

CMHA Ontario promotes mental health services and equitable access to services. They offer Child and Youth Mental Health Services, which are detailed here: 


 Find Mental Health Supports | Government of Ontario 

Here you can learn about supports available and how to get help when you need it. 


Youth Mental Health Canada 

YMHC is a community-based, youth-led organization focused on youth, family and community engagement for mental health education, support, advocacy, and change. YMHC advocates for needs-based, culturally sensitive, trauma-informed mental health supports and services. 

Further Reading

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Thanks to special funding set aside in the state budget, public media broadcasters in New York have come together to raise awareness about specific issues that impact our communities throughout the state. People can access thousands of hours of content through broadcast or on-demand content that provides resources and information about the opioid and overdose epidemic, aging and senior isolation, and student mental health.

Funding for Student Mental Health was provided in part by the New York State Education Department.