May 19 Mental Health Awareness Month:
Listening to the Teens
Since my hair is now white – it returned white after chemo and I decided to embrace it –people often tilt their heads when they first meet me, and say things like, “Are you still teaching?”
Yes, I am still doing what I love. This is my 52nd year serving young people as a nurse, educator, and counselor. For five decades, I have championed programs to empower children and young people by easing their mental and physical health challenges.
Every program I’ve created, every book I’ve written, and every class I’ve taught was predicated by listening to the youth I serve. I cannot know what they need unless I hold space with them and hear them.
When the opportunity to write this blog was offered to me, I was thrilled. I immediately knew where I would go for material – directly to teens. Our Outreach hosted our 27th Youth Conference on April 27, 2023. Over 80 young people gathered in Washington Jefferson College’s Rossin Ballroom for a day of interactive facilitation, led by our trained Peer Educators, and ending with a panel of adults ranging in age from 20-something to 80-something. I was honored to represent the 70-something generation. Gathering teens to discuss mental health that day was both easy – they were interested and willing – and challenging, since they had a full day of activities. I then expanded my reach to the teens who attend our Common Ground Teen Center.
These are unedited comments from young people. I first asked them if COVID was the cause of their angst, and was told COVID and society’s reactions were factors, but their peers’ mental health issues ran deeper than the pandemic. The challenges associated with mental health are obviously real and urgent for many teens.
– Bhadrasena Ramlogan, 18
– Rex Bennett, 16
– Kaiden Mowery, 15
– Logan Hollowood, 15
– Brycen McAdoo, 16
– Isabella King, 13
– Rowan Curry, 18
– Lynzi Smith, 16
This final comment was given to me with the caveat that it be anonymous. Although I normally seek identification for my sources, in this case, I understood.
– Anonymous, 17
As an adult who cares deeply about young people, I find these words chilling. They are a call to action. We must ease these teens’ anxiety. It is our responsibility and our duty to serve them.