By Allison Williams
Senior Vice President, National Network & Strategic Initiatives
The urgency of our current teen mental health crisis is clear from calls to action by the CDC, US Surgeon General, and American Academy of Pediatrics. Adolescents have faced two plus years of disrupted developmental experiences during the pandemic that continue to impact them – AND, these concerns were actually rising prior to the pandemic. As recently reported on NPR, more and more learnings are emerging linking the rise in teen mental health challenges with increased prevalence and use of social media.
The increased use of social media as a means of connection may ironically be resulting in the loss of authentic person to person connections that human beings are simply hard wired to need, and from which they can grow and thrive. The introduction of Together by US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, reminds us of a basic tenet of our common humanity. “We have evolved to participate in community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are simply better together.”
Connections are core to Wyman’s last 125 years of service to teens, and foundational to our future. Time and again, evaluation and research on our programs demonstrate the fundamental importance of adult and peer connections to supporting healthy youth development and positive outcomes for teens. We truly are better together.
Recognizing the importance of connections, Wyman has launched the Teen Connection Project® (TCP®), a highly engaging, evidence-based program for high school students focusing on building healthy relationships and connections. Teen Connection Project is a proactive experience of being cared for, supported, and belonging, delivered in school or in community. A three-year research study of the program – conducted in St. Louis area high schools – showed positive impact on quality of peer relationships, social coping, emotional well-being, and school engagement.
Knowing that TCP is one way to promote health and healing among today’s teens in the midst of an urgent mental health crisis, and support healthy and authentic person to person connections, Wyman actively seeks partners interested in bringing this support to teens, both nationally and in our hometown of St. Louis.