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FCAHS Student Wins Youth Mental Health Leadership Award

Fox Chapel Area High School senior Abigail Rickin-Marks has been chosen to receive NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Keystone Pennsylvania’s 2021 Youth Mental Health Leadership Award. The award is given to a young person who is a change-leader in the areas of mental health education and is instrumental in shifting conversations about mental health from negative to positive. Abby, who received four nominations, was selected for her vital contributions in both her school and community to raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma.

Abigail Rickin-Marks

At Fox Chapel Area High School, Abby is involved with social activism and the peer-to-peer empowerment program, and also serves as a member of the school’s diversity council.  

According to Fox Chapel Area High School counselor Rachel Machen, Abby is a natural leader whose efforts make a true difference for her peers.

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

In the community, Abby is the founder of The Second Floor Teen Wellness Committee at the Jewish Community Center, a group formed to empower teens to educate peers about different mental health topics. Additionally, she serves as a teen advisory council member for UpStreet, a teen drop-in therapy service through Pittsburgh Jewish Family and Community Services. Abby is also a student advocate with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Youth Advocacy Committee focused on teen mental health in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She helped design and implement the “Igniting A Youth Advocacy Movement” that focused on destigmatizing mental health, building safe and inclusive communities in schools, and increasing school resources for mental health services. She has also spearheaded two social justice symposiums that focused on the intersection of social equity, diversity, and inclusivity.  

According to an email from NAMI Keystone PA Director of Education Susan Caban, Abby is incredibly deserving of this award. 

“To say that we were impressed and appreciative of Abby’s mental health advocacy is an understatement,” she says. “She really is an amazing young woman.” 

According to Deborah Murdoch, program manager for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, “Abby’s warm and empathetic approach, as well as her openness about her experiences, creates an environment that is welcoming to teens of all backgrounds.”

Abby will receive the award on February 5 as part of the NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania Child, Adolescent, and Transition Age Youth Mental Health Virtual Conference. She will be given a $500 scholarship and a commemorative plaque as part of the award.

NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is the state organization in Pennsylvania for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country. NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, adolescents, adults, and families affected by mental illness through recovery-focused support, education, and advocacy.