As 2020 slowly crept to its end, I found it harder than usual to find silver linings. But as I sat down to write a piece about the new year, I reminded myself of the power of turning pain into purpose and knew I needed to reflect back on 2020 before moving forward. I found myself feeling inspired by the dedication and passion of our staff and growing team of volunteers who make the work we do at The Youth Mental Health Project possible. Thanks to them, along with our supporters and followers, our small but mighty organization is heading into 2021 stronger and smarter.
When the pandemic started, we knew that supporting families would become more important than ever. What we didn’t know was whether our organization would have the resources to meet the increasing need for mental health support and education. Knowing the pain and isolation families feel, under the best of circumstances, when raising a child or teen with mental health challenges, we pushed our fears aside and put our passion to work. It hasn’t been easy, but there have been silver linings.
PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH!
For one thing, the topic of mental health – particularly youth mental health – is at the forefront and becoming mainstream in the media. While I am sorry that it took a pandemic for people to realize that our children can and do have mental health challenges, normalizing the conversation is the first step to finding solutions.
WE’VE SUPPORTED HUNDREDS OF PARENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Sadly, children, teens, and young adults are increasingly struggling and their parents are overwhelmed and exhausted. We knew we had to work fast to make sure that parents could get the support they need, so our team put their passion to work to create a confidential, virtual platform for The Parent Support Network. We quickly transitioned to provide free parent support meetings online and are proud that we have been able to support more parents than ever across 48 states. At the same time, we have developed new ways to provide ongoing support and training to the growing network of volunteer facilitators who make our work possible.
EDUCATION AND AWARENESS EVENTS ARE STILL RUNNING
In other good news, we found innovative ways to continue to promote mental health literacy and awareness virtually. Early in the pandemic, we created our own free video series, “Parenting in a Pandemic,” to share knowledge and advice about youth mental health. We spoke with hundreds of students at multiple high schools, including a keynote speech at the Student Wellness and Leadership Conference, and a virtual mental health rally organized by the youth of Giving Tuesday Spark. During Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 3 – 9, 2020, we held a week of virtual events, including a musical theatre cabaret and a virtual pilates class, to promote awareness and to engage with young people.
We have continued to promote mental health awareness and are proud to say that we had an article published on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation’s platform for storytelling, Channel Kindness, in July 2020. And during the fall of 2020, we were featured on PBS Wellbeings Tour and collaborated with MHA New York State on an innovative and compelling video series “Family Lunch & Learn: Conversation on youth mental health.”
WORKING TO MEET THE DEMAND FOR SUPPORT
Looking back, we were forced to be creative and think outside of the box in order to expand our programs and meet the new demand. Our work is far from over, but we have turned the corner and, thanks to our supporters, are ready to face the challenges ahead. We look forward to seeing you online at one of our educational programs or events. And remember, if know anyone who needs support and feels isolated because their children or teens are struggling, let them know they are NOT ALONE. Meetings of The Parent Support Network are free and open to all parents and caregivers across the country!
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED IN OUR WORK?
Are you a parent with lived experience raising a child or teen with mental health challenges? Would you like to use your experience to help other parents? Join our growing network of parent volunteers and become a trained Facilitator of The Parent Support Network. For more information, contact Jenny Collins at J.Collins@ymhproject.org.
Our Board of Directors is looking for new members who want to make a difference. If you are interested in applying or would like more information, please contact me at Randi.Silverman@ymhproject.org.
With sincere gratitude and best wishes for the year ahead,