Delran senior Riley Ahrens using her voice to spread mental health awareness

Riley Ahrens' mental health advocacy efforts started after the tragic suicide of a classmate last January.

ByRenee Washington WPVI logo
Monday, March 27, 2023
Delran student athlete uses voice to spread mental health awareness
Delran High School senior Riley Ahrens has been named a finalist for Jersey Mike's Naismith Basketball Courage Award for her mental health advocacy efforts.

DELRAN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Delran High School senior Riley Ahrens found out through a tweet she was a finalist for the Jersey Mike's Naismith High School Basketball Courage Award.

The award recognizes basketball players nationwide for going above and beyond in their community.

Her advocacy efforts started after the tragic suicide of a classmate, 17-year-old Mason Williams, last January.

"The impact he had on the school and the community, it impacted the whole town and it was sad to see. It inspired me to do something," said Ahrens.

The two-sport athlete has been actively working to fundraise for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

"We felt like we couldn't just sit around and do nothing about it. So, we decided to do a moment of silence before every game," she said. "And we also got the whole school involved with fundraisers. We made shirts for everybody"

Delran High School has a long history of student-athlete excellence, but Ahrens wanted to do more than just win on the court to make a bigger impact around mental health awareness in the community.

"We played a game here against Moorestown Friends and I remember one of the moms came up to me crying and she gave me the biggest hug. It really hit me then. I was like, wow this really impacts a lot more than just us and our community," said Ahrens.

Statistics show youth mental health has continued to worsen. The numbers are alarming.

"It's okay not to be okay. It's okay to struggle. It's okay to not be happy all the time. We see a lot online, on social media, we see the happy sides of people all the time," said Ahrens.

According to Mental Health America, as of March 2022, 15.08% of youth ages 12-17, reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

That means at least one in six teenagers struggle with mental health issues, but less than half of them are getting treated for it. Statistics show 59.8% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment.

Ahrens has been determined to change the stigma and proactively highlight resources.

"There's a lot of help out there. There's a lot of resources," she said. "I've gotten help myself and I continue to do so. It's just being able to find that person or people that you can speak up to about things you're struggling with."

Heading into the final months of senior year, Ahrens says her work is not done. She has committed to play basketball at Kean University in Union, New Jersey and plans to continue her advocacy far beyond the halls of her high school.

If you are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises please call or text the three-digit code at 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to