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Chesterfield Youth Citizens Board Launches Mental Health Awareness Campaign

“Mental Health Is A Puzzle, But We Have The Missing Piece” campaign aims to help students and parents identify signs of mental distress in local teens.

The Chesterfield County Youth Citizens Board (YCB) is working with Chesterfield County Prevention Services to launch a youth-centric social media mental health campaign – “Mental Health Is A Puzzle, But We Have The Missing Piece” – starting April 13 through May 7.

The campaign focuses on several mental health topics effecting Chesterfield middle and high school-aged students, including identifying signs of depression, dealing with stress, self-care, and suicide awareness and prevention. It also provides tips and advice for parents of pre-teens and teenagers to help notice signs of stress and depression in their children.

As part of the initiative, visitors to the Chesterfield County Prevention Services Facebook page, and the Youth Services Instagram page (@cfieldyouthservices) will find a wave of helpful and informational posts – all created by members of the youth board.

“Being isolated from friends and social activity has definitely taken a toll on everyone, which is what makes the message of the campaign so significant,” said YCB member and Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School junior Paige Walworth. “My biggest takeaway for anyone seeing the YCB campaign would be to know that you are not alone in any struggles that you face. Mental health struggles are not something you should be ashamed of, which is why working on this campaign with the Chesterfield YCB to help end the stigma surrounding mental health challenges has been such a worthwhile project.”

Established in 1978, the YCB is a group of local high school juniors and seniors appointed by the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors representing each high school in all five of the county’s magisterial districts, along with at-large youths representing students not enrolled in Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS). Its mission is to identify and advise the Board of Supervisors on issues relating to youth and provide opportunities for the community.

“YCB affords Chesterfield teens a unique opportunity to establish a forum to discuss and plan initiatives, and this year’s initiative fits so well into the fabric of the 2020-2021 school year,” said YCB member and James River High School junior Jason R. Melendez. “Chesterfield YCB is emblematic of students coming together and showing how Chesterfield residents of all ages can affect the actions of local government and make a change in the community.”

Chesterfield County is home to nearly 83,000 people under the age of 18 – roughly 23.5 percent of the estimated 352,802 residents who reside in the county, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates.

Like thousands of students across the region and nation, Chesterfield’s youth is adjusting to what’s become the “new norm” during the pandemic through virtual learning, social distancing and overall limited interactions with friends and family.

Sadly, it has come at a cost for several Chesterfield youth, as inquiries from parents and students about how to cope with depression and suicide have spiked in the county since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented a year ago.

“We have seen a great increase in the number of parents and other adults in the community who are concerned about youth mental health and want to know how to recognize and respond to signs,” said Melissa Ackley, Chesterfield County Prevention Services Manager.

Members of the YCB hope their social media campaign will reach a diverse group of students and parents, with the hope of engaging more Chesterfield residents to talk more about the importance of addressing their mental health.

“YCB’s Mental Health Awareness Initiative is important because mental health and substance abuse is often seen as a taboo topic, which prevents people from seeking help or talking about their experiences,” said YCB member and Cosby High School junior Mahlet Nebiyu. “Our hope for this social media project is to provide resources, raise awareness, and reduce the stigma around these topics. Being on the board is a fulfilling experience that makes me feel like I am actively creating change in my community.”

To learn more about the Chesterfield Youth Citizens Board, visit:Chesterfield Youth Citizens Board.


In case you missed it:

For more on teens and mental wellness from family physician Dr. Gayle Smith, go here.

For a look at overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness, read this article from Dr. Catherine Franssen.

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