Spotlight: Mental Health

This Mental Health Awareness Month, we are spotlighting not only how we support participants’ mental health, but also that of our staff. It’s extremely important for both youth and adults to have access to the resources and skills needed to maintain positive mental health.

By now, many of you may be familiar with the scary-but-true results of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey & Trends Report: 2011-2021 released in February. This survey includes recent surveillance data as well as 10-year trends related to high school students’ health and well-being across the United States.

57% of female students in 2021 reported having persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness during the past year. In 2011, this number was only 36%. It is extremely important for youth to have healthy coping skills, a trusted adult, and mental health supports while they navigate the challenges of adolescence.

The number of YWRC participants in our counseling program DOUBLED last year. We know the need for this resource in our community is high and are excited to be able to offer a variety of approaches. YWRC counseling participants have a choice about how they would like to interact with their therapist.

They can choose traditional talk therapy and be seated across from the counselor during their session, or they can choose a more physically active approach. This can include art therapy, going for a walk, or gardening. Often times it’s easier to share and learn when nervous energy can be funneled into an activity. Participants can also choose to participate in reiki sessions, and we are looking to incorporate even more wholistic supports. (If you are interested in providing wholistic support to participants like massage, meditation, or chiropractic care, please email us.)

In addition to offering counseling for free, we also incorporate mental health lessons throughout our Empowerment and Young Moms programs. This includes introducing healthy coping skills, positive decision making, and providing a safe place to build peer support. We also use affirming, empowering, and inclusive language during all programs to reinforce participants’ self-worth.

As you can imagine, working directly with youth experiencing trauma and navigating adolescence can have an impact staff members’ mental load. This past year we implemented a new Wellness Reimbursement program so staff can choose the self-care activity that best suits them. This can include yoga class, gym membership, relaxation apps, massages, and more. We continue to offer self-care hours for staff to use at their discretion in addition to regular paid time off.

We value the mental health of our participants and staff. Utilizing tools to navigate everchanging mental health is key. If you know a girl or young woman* age 10 – 24 that could benefit from counseling and/or being part of a positive peer group, please reach out to us via email. You can also browse information about all of our programs here on our website.

And please remember, 24/7 care is available.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health, suicide, or substance use crisis, call 988. This three-digit number is answered by trained mental health professionals and is available 24/7, 365 days per year. (If you dial 911, it is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for police officers trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.)

You can also find more resources on the NAMI Iowa website here and watch YWRC videos on Self-Care and Coping Skills Boxes here.

*We define ‘girls and young women’ as any persons who have been socialized and/or identify as female. Trans and nonbinary friends included.