HCA Florida Healthcare nurse's daughter creates Girl Scout patch program promoting mental health awareness
Emma Wegener, daughter of HCA Florida Healthcare nurse Sue Wegener, creates a Girl Scout Patch Program to address mental health during a critical time for adolescents.
The Girl Scouts of the USA, commonly referred to as Girl Scouts, is an organization that has been shaping the lives of girls and young women for over 100 years. Participants in Girl Scouts troops are recognized with various badges and awards for learning, trying new things and making positive impacts in the lives of others and their communities, with the highest honor being The Gold Award.
After 12 years in Girl Scouts, Emma Wegner, high school senior and Girl Scout Troop 1142 member, started a new patch program as part of her Gold Award project to raise mental health awareness. Emma credits her passion for mental health to her mother, Sue Wegener, BSN, RN-PMH-BC at HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital, a behavioral health hospital and extension of HCA Florida Trinity Hospital in Trinity, Florida.
"I think probably before they could even talk, we talked about it," said mother Sue Wegener, regarding conversations with her children about mental health. "We had lots of conversations about what it looked like to have mental health issues — what that meant for individuals, what that meant for families, how do you seek help, how do you identify somebody that might be in crisis and what can you do to support that individual."
Although Emma had a strong understanding of mental health and wellness, she noticed a lack of mental health education provided in her middle and high school. She witnessed her peers struggling with mental health issues and the growing stigma surrounding this important subject. To promote the importance of mental health education and distribute accurate information to her peers, she created the Girl Scout Patch Program – the Gold Award: The Mental Health Awareness Patch, For Girls by Girls.
Emma's Girl Scout Patch Program
"The patch program is centered around what is mental health, and specifically, how do we talk about mental health," said program creator, Emma Wegener.
Aimed at Girl Scouts in middle and high school, Emma's self-guided patch program is divided into five key parts:
- Learn About Mental Health: Understand the seriousness and gravity of the subject of mental health and the importance of using people-first language.
- Your Mental Wellness: Encourage participants to find ways to improve their mental wellness.
- Understand Mental Illnesses: Learn about the mental health disorders that most significantly affect females, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
- Connect And Help: Learn about the resources available to those who may be struggling with mental wellness, such as hotlines and support groups.
- Spread The Word: Teach and motivate participants on how to have conversations about mental wellness with a trusted individual.
How the HCA Florida Healthcare Family contributed to Emma’s patch program
After Emma told her mother that mental health would be the focus of her Gold Award project, Sue Wegener enlisted the help of her leadership team and colleagues at HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital, and everyone was excited to help.
Emma gives a lot of credit to her mother and the teams at HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital for helping her create the impactful program. "Having my mother and the HCA family there to support me with resources, with information, really was a key part of my project," Emma said. "I ended up getting over 360 girls to sign up."
When HCA Florida Trinity Hospital’s CEO Tripp Owings heard about Emma's project, he was incredibly proud of Emma and his colleagues. He said, “Care like family is our culture (…) which makes hearing about Emma’s efforts so special for our entire hospital family. We are dedicated to giving people a healthier tomorrow which includes addressing mental health awareness and understanding in our community. We thank Emma for her contribution to this important work.”
Sue is also incredibly proud of her daughter. "She makes me proud every day in all that she does but in particular, with this because it's so important to me as a professional to have somebody young want to carry that torch and work towards improving the lives of folks who have mental health issues," she said.
The importance of mental health education in female adolescents and teenagers
Emma noticed a need for mental health education and awareness in her middle and high school, and it's a need that has been growing in adolescents even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
On December 7, 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report warning of the devastating effects of a youth mental health crisis. Studies also show that girls are disproportionally affected by the increasing mental health crisis in America.
Organizations such as the Girl Scouts of the USA and efforts like Emma's patch program help raise mental health awareness and build a positive community for young girls. That's why HCA Healthcare is proud to partner with Girl Scouts of the USA and other organizations raising mental health awareness in today's youth.
HCA Healthcare partners with Girl Scouts of the USA
As part of the larger HCA Healthcare family, we are driven by our mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. One of the ways we are creating a positive impact in the lives of today's adolescents is by collaborating with organizations like Girl Scouts of the USA in select regions.
HCA Healthcare Foundation will donate $1.38 million over the next three years to Girl Scouts of the USA to start work on creating a series of workshops for girls in grades four through 12 aimed at addressing mental wellness. The partnership aims to empower girls to identify their emotions and develop coping skills, learn when to seek help and how to support their peers.
HCA Healthcare's EVERFI partnership
HCA Healthcare has also partnered with EVERFI, an international technology company driving social change through education, to provide mental health education and support students through an interactive, digital education course provided in middle and high schools.
Called Mental Wellness Basics, EVERFI's course is targeted to reach more than 120,000 middle and high school students in an estimated 105 school districts in Southeast Florida, Western North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Texas.
The program has already made an impact. One of the students in EVERFI's Mental Wellness Basics course in West Florida shared what they took away from it: “I like the fact they bring awareness to the stigma, seeing how multiple students struggle with mental health. It can make them feel more welcomed and open to coming out about their mental health.”
HCA Healthcare's partnership with the Jason Foundation
Since 2013, HCA Healthcare has formally partnered with The Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of youth suicide. The Jason Foundation offers programs that equip young people, parents and educators with the tools and resources needed to identify and assist at-risk youth. Today, HCA Healthcare has 13 Jason Foundation affiliate offices across the nation.
HCA Florida Healthcare's behavioral health programs for adolescents
When individualized, professional mental health care is needed, HCA Florida Healthcare is proud to provide outpatient behavioral health programs for teens at some of our facilities, including:
- HCA Florida Capital Hospital's adolescent intensive outpatient program for ages 13-17
- HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital's intensive outpatient program for teens
- HCA Florida Trinity Hospital's adolescent intensive outpatient program for ages 13-17
- HCA Florida Woodmont Hospital's child and adolescent inpatient programs