CHERRY HILL, N.J., (CBS) – It’s a unique kind of school in New Jersey, that’s designed specifically to help students with anxiety disorders. For students with mental health issues, school can be a nightmare, every day is a struggle, and it causes an alarming amount of absenteeism.
Seventeen year-old Eva Haydu is learning how to cope with anxiety and depression with mindfulness therapy during her school day. Traditional high school got so stressful that she didn’t want to live anymore.
“Girl drama, that stuff and it was a lot for me,” she said. “It was not a very good place,” Eva says.
Four months ago, she came to Transitions Academy, the only program in South Jersey geared to help students with anxiety disorders.
“We think that having a small program and a lot of therapy really helped them start to open up and really, you know, be excited about learning,” said Barbara Donahue.
Transitions turned Simon Michel’s life around. He’s now on the Dean’s list at Muhlenberg College, but high school was a struggle.
“It was pretty upsetting to me and my parents,” he said. “They sometimes felt they had lost control. I thought I might not graduate from high school.”
Simon spent a year at Transitions learning to manage his anxiety and social awkwardness. He was able to go back to Cherry Hill East and graduate after 12th grade.
“He actually got an award, a people’s choice award in 11th grade,” his mom Randa said. “He did well.”
“Instead of just giving me schooling, it gave me the social interactions that I needed,” Simon said.
At Transitions, there are small classes, lots of individual help, and therapy. There’s even regular yoga. All to give students mindfulness skills to better manage anxiety.
“It’s okay to have problems, I say to myself. I’m still normal,” Eva said. “I am doing much better here. It’s a great place. I love it here. It’s amazing.”
The school district pays tuition for students with anxiety disorders who can’t cope in traditional classrooms, so students have to be referred. The average length of stay at Transitions is about a year.
As the name implies, the program helps students transition through their emotional issues so they can get back to a more traditional classroom. Click here for more information on the school.