Even in the best of times, being a teenager is hard. Add in a pandemic, plus recent political polarization and unrest, and life seems especially difficult for all ages. And these days feel especially difficult. A very recent New England Journal of Medicine article titled “Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic,” explains that Americans are not only living with widespread emotional distress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, substance use, domestic violence, and suicidal thoughts during this extraordinary time, but also that many parents are underestimating the level of distress their children are experiencing and should encourage them to discuss their reactions and concerns.
One way to start a mental health conversation with your teen might be to ask if they are interested in entering the third annual Counselors for Change mental health awareness poster contest, Posters for Change, open to area 6-12th grade students. Four middle school (6th-8th grade) and four high school (9th-12th grade) student posters submitted online by March 26th will win $100 prizes. (Complete information and rules are available at counselorsforchange.org/ posters-for-change.)
Counselors for Change, (C4C), is the brainchild of former elementary school teacher and current licensed marriage and family therapist Stephanie Byrd, who has worked with children and families since 1998.
C4C is a shared passion to fulfill the wishes most often uttered from the therapist’s couch: “I wish I knew this then and I wish I had done this sooner.” Byrd confesses she once uttered those wishes herself as a therapy client and later heard them from countless clients over her 15 years as a therapist.
“These experiences highlight glaring inequities in access to quality care, information, and support, making mental health care on one hand a luxury, and on the other hand a stigma,” she said.
C4C’s mission is to recognize that mental health is at the center of individual and collective wellbeing and that lasting change takes a community effort, albeit one that starts with each of us. Byrd believes that all people have the power to heal, grow, impact positive change, and advocate for the well-being of others through words and actions.
In addition to Posters for Change, C4C’s initiatives include Conversations for Change, panel discussions for schools and organizations seeking to increase mental health awareness and change the conversations to end stigma. Another initiative is Movies for Change, screenings of documentaries focused on mental health education and awareness, each accompanied by a panel of mental health professionals and community volunteers who provide information and resources.
In fact, anyone—regardless of gender, age, or background—can be an agent of change and even a counselor for change. Encourage your favorite Brevard teenager to submit their creation to the Posters for Change contest by March 26th.