Teens in a large room with red floors, sitting in chairs listening to adult speaker during a meeting.

John Geigle YMCA teens listening to Mental Wellness Teen Talk from Breaking Free Services speakers.

The way we view mental health and wellness is changing. Over the last decade, we have seen a societal shift in the way individuals care for and treat their mental health.

As we ring in the New Year at the YMCA, many of our members young and old are focusing on their mental wellness along with their physical wellness. At our John Geigle YMCA, our Teen Leaders club is honing in on all things mental wellness in 2023.

Teen Talks

Recently – the John Geigle Teen Leaders club hosted a Mental Health Teen Talk with guest speaker Sheri Linger and her team from Breaking Free Services.

The Teen Talks are conversations structured similarly to a TED Talk, with an expert in a particular field sharing their knowledge and skills through a short discussion and presentation. 

Sheri is a counselor and therapist who specializes in specific areas of mental wellness including anxiety, depression, mood disorders, PTSD, life stressors, transition, family, relationship counseling and school-related issues.

At the Teen Talk Sheri presented the following hot top conversations and the major stressors teens are encountering on a daily basis. 

  1. The extreme pressure to perform well and succeed at a high level in school.  
  2. The negative impacts of the dark side of social media and the fear of being bullied online.  
  3. The fear of being left out or abandoned by friends.  
  4. The rising suicide rates among youth and teens and how to cope with negative thoughts and emotions.  
  5. Body image and the unrealistic body trends social media influencers are calling the ‘ideal body image’.  

Sheri presented several tips, resources and coping mechanisms to help navigate the major stressors above.

Hailey Carr, a 12th grader in the Teen Leaders Club shares, “Sheri’s presentation was very impactful. I learned a lot about how to take care of myself and learned different ways to honor my mental health.  

Hailey said her  biggest take away was  the perspective on  feeling stressed. "Instead of saying, ’I’m stressed right now,’ say ’stress is happening.’ This is because when we say ’I’m’ we are making the stress become us. When we say, ’stress is happening’ we separate the stress from ourselves and that allows us to cope with it easier.”

Mental Health Tips and Resources

Sue Carr, Teen Coordinator at John Geigle YMCA adds, “Mental health is a very personal subject to some teens, even though it is much more openly discussed than it used to be. Having a space to share their feelings free of judgment is extremely important. Teens are often more comfortable talking to someone who can offer an unbiased perspective without the fear of  opinion.”

Sue has led the Teen Leaders program at the John Geigle YMCA branch for the last 15 years and expresses her passion for serving the teens at the Y and throughout the community.

Additionally, Sue shares, “Teens should always have access to mental health counseling be it in person, telephone, or online. Knowing there are resources of all kinds available will only increase the likelihood they will turn to counseling options for help. We cannot stress enough how much emphasis should be placed on youth mental health.”

Hailey believes it is very important for teens to have mental health resources because most teens won’t go out of their way to help themselves.

"They’ll just wait for the pain to go away, or worse, use something [like] drugs or alcohol to ease the pain they are feeling.”

Having resources for teens, and knowledge of how to access them, means a teen who needs help will, “have an easier time speaking up for themself and gives them a chance to find someone to talk to."

We are proud to offer a variety of in-person mental health resources, adult mentors and more for our teens. Learn more about our teen programs at the YMCA today!

Published Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.