At Wyman, we’re energized by the variety of on-going community conversations and collaborations occurring around the well-being of young people in the St. Louis community. The Nine Network’s latest Town Hall Meeting – “Youth at Risk: Finding Solutions Together” – is one such example.
This forum – involving youth, parents, educators, and a variety of mental health service providers and funders – created a space to explore and discuss realities impacting the well-being of today’s teens. Rich conversations occurred about the role social media and networking can play – to both the benefit and detriment of teens. Family members and teens themselves shared stories of their struggles and journeys with addiction, bullying, and suicide, and encouraged community members to connect and utilize available resources. A unique resource available to our community – the Youth Connection Helpline (1-877-928-2929 or text 4HLP to 31658) – was promoted as a 24/7 resource for youth and their families. Provided by Behavioral Health Response and Youth in Need with funding from St. Louis County Children’s Services Fund, the Helpline provides an immediate connection to a helping professional and resources.
Perhaps most importantly, the role of proactive solutions and the role teens play within these were discussed. Rhonda Gray, Executive Director of Almost Home, reminded the audience that the best way to prevent challenging issues such as teen pregnancy and risk taking is to ensure that our teens can see a bright future for themselves, and have had supports and opportunities along the way to build critical skills to accomplish their hopes and dreams. Wyman’s own Teen Leadership Program member Maxine DuMaine recommended training teens early in high school to recognize crisis situations among their peers, and know how to respond appropriately. High school student Dakota Hommes also spoke to the power of positive peer pressure – and the important role teens can play in supporting one another to do well and thrive.
The complex challenges and issues addressed in this Town Hall meeting – as well as the solutions that were recommended – highlight the need for a holistic approach to supporting mental health and well-being for our young people. Our community can and will be strongest when a system of policies and programs work in tandem to both promote mental health – through universally available programs which help youth build critical social and emotional skills such as resiliency, self-efficacy, and self-regulation – as well as provide targeted treatments and interventions when needs arise. Thanks to all who spoke so clearly, personally, and powerfully during this Town Hall meeting, and gave voice to such important issues, challenges, opportunities, and solutions.