Many individuals within the Lexington community are passionate about creating change around youth mental wellness, especially the teens themselves, as described in a recent education piece in the Lexington Observer. As a practitioner and Executive Director of Lexington’s Youth Counseling Connection (YCC), I love that this has been an ongoing conversation around how to best support our kids. YCC was founded 10 years ago to give youth and their families a place to turn to when they needed extra support, initially at a time when those supports were less available, but urgently needed. Barrier-free access to services — no insurance or payments out of pocket necessary – were part of our founding principles and continue to be pillars of our mission.
As YCC has evolved throughout the years, one of the most important parts of our work has become our Youth Advisory Board. This volunteer group of high school students gives our Board of Directors and clinical staff key insights into the struggles that teens are facing and ways that YCC can better address the needs of the kids we serve (anyone aged 12-22 who lives in, or attends school in Lexington).
One particular insight from a past Youth Advisory Board member made a permanent impact on the way I approach care. He said, “we need to change the narrative from mental health to mental wellness. So many students think, I can’t or shouldn’t access services because I’m just stressed. Or my problems aren’t as big as other students.”
By referring to seeking care as mental wellness, this opens the doors for the kid who is having ongoing stress nightmares, this opens the door for the kid who is struggling with their confidence, and also keeps the door open for the kid who isn’t sure if they want to be alive.
Recently, YCC hosted an event called “How to Talk to Teens in 2022.” The parents who attended learned how to facilitate tough conversations, how to encourage healthy relationships, and how to monitor technology with their kids. Together, we need to continue to bridge this gap between expectations for our kids’ futures and how to help them obtain their goals in a healthy manner. Youth Counseling Connection will continue to be at the forefront of this conversation in Lexington as we offer our ongoing support to this amazing community.
For more information about YCC please visit youthcounselingconnection.org