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Fox Chapel Area teen earns honors for mental health advocacy

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 2/16/2021

Feb. 16—Fox Chapel Area senior Abby Rickin-Marks has emerged as a change-maker in teen mental health advocacy, winning the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania Youth Award.

Given to youth leaders who shift perceptions and spearhead change in mental health education, the NAMI honor comes with a $500 scholarship.

"To know that I am being recognized for what I do is jaw-dropping," Rickin-Marks, 18, said. "I'm incredibly privileged for the opportunity to do what I do and as long as I give back to the community, that is enough."

For three years, the Fox Chapel teen has worked diligently to reduce the stigma related to mental health issues.

She serves as a member of the high school's diversity council and peer-to-peer empowerment program, and has twice organized a social justice workshop for teens to challenge discrimination.

High school counselor Rachel Machen called Rickin-Marks a natural leader and said her efforts make a true difference for fellow students.

"I see how, even within our high school, Abby is trying to create change and reduce that stigma around mental health," Machen said.

Rickin-Marks is the founder of The Second Floor Teen Wellness Committee at the Jewish Community Center, a group that empowers teens to educate others about different mental health topics.

She serves as an advisory council member for UpStreet, a teen drop-in therapy service through Pittsburgh Jewish Family and Community Services, and is a student advocate with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's Youth Advocacy Committee focused on teen mental health in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

NAMI Keystone PA Director of Education Susan Caban said Rickin-Marks is deserving of the award.

"To say that we were impressed and appreciative of Abby's mental health advocacy is an understatement," Caban said.

Deborah Murdoch, program manager for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, added, "Abby's warm and empathetic approach creates an environment that is welcoming to teens of all backgrounds."

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121 x1512, or via Twitter .


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