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The JCC’s Second Floor Teen Department Promotes Mental Wellness

Posted by Sarah Pesi on October 29, 2021
Initiatives include The Second Floor Wellness Room and Virtual Teen Resource Room

The Second Floor Teen Department at the JCC has made teen mental health and wellness a much larger priority in an effort to curb the teen mental health crisis that has emerged over the last several years.  Through the generosity of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, The Second Floor Teen Department hired a part-time Director of Teen Wellness and Advocacy two years ago.  The Director of Teen Wellness and Advocacy, Sarah Pesi, is charged with helping teens with their mental wellness and mental health needs. The Second Floor Teen Department was one of the first youth serving organizations in the country to hire a professional dedicated to the mental health of teens. The addition of Sarah Pesi, an expert in teen advocacy with a Master’s in Public Policy & Management, to The Second-Floor staff has been incredibly valuable as the mental health needs of teens has increased through the Covid-19 pandemic.  In fact, The C.S. Mott National Poll on Children’s Health, found that 46% of parents surveyed said their teen experienced a new or worsening mental health condition after the pandemic started.

In August, The Second Floor partnered with The Friendship Circle, the 10.27 Healing Partnership, the Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Museum at the JCC, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and The Center of Life on a collaborative art exhibit that took place on Sunday, September 12 called Connect & Create. Teen leaders representing these different organizations came together to create an opportunity for a diverse group of teens in the Pittsburgh community to reflect, connect, and create an artistic representation of their experience and emotions of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 30 pieces of art were curated and are on display in the Robinson Building of the JCC until the end of October. You can visit the virtual gallery here.

Earlier this month, the JCC launched a Virtual Teen Resource Room. The Virtual Teen Resource Room was an initiative create by Sarah Pesi and the Teen Wellness Committee. This resource enables anyone to locate, isolate, and discover helpful resources for their personal mental wellbeing or find resources on how to help and best support a family member or friend with their mental wellbeing. The Virtual Teen Resource Room is a public virtual space, and open to the entire community. There is no membership or payment requirement. The need for an online space such as the Virtual Teen Resource Room was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic it became increasingly more evident that teens need more and better access to resources to improve their mental health.

A survey from Mental Health America indicated that teens and young adults want more DIY resources and want tools and information to help them manage their own mental wellness.  Two key finding from this report were:

  • Only 24% think training adults would help them with their mental health challenges, versus 47% who want to learn more about how to help their own mental health.
  • Young people reported what they need most: support for their own mental health, opportunities to learn about mental health, connection to a mental health advocacy community, and training to support their peers’ mental health.

The Virtual Teen Resource Room provides this but also is an important community hub of mental wellness events and services in the community. The Virtual Teen Resource Room is aimed to make it a little easier to access mental health resources. This initiative also invited other organizations that are addressing teen mental health to collaborate on the resources that should be available. In the future, we are hoping to connect the resource with the Friendship Circle mental health space initiative.

In addition, to the virtual space, the JCC Second Floor opened a mindfulness room in The Second Floor Teen Department space at the JCC.  The mindfulness space features a variety of calming activities like stress balls, biofeedback, acupressure, yoga and meditative activities. The wellness room also has a variety of educational resources on different health topics and resources for teens to get help with issues they may be facing. Creative activities like coloring, puzzles, and journaling help teens connect to their feeling and offer an outlet for expression. The ambiance of the wellness room offers a space of quiet and calm for teens to decompress from school, work, take a break from outside stressors.

The Second Floor has always strived to be a physical location were all teens feel welcomed and supported in the way that serves them effectively. A few years ago, JCC teen professionals went through the process of identifying our core purpose of engaging teens and it was decided that our mission for engaging teens is to help teens be the best version of themselves now and in the future. Staff and teen leaders aim to create a brave space without the need for teens to put on a mask or hide behind stigma around mental health. We will continue to work with community partners to continue to address the mental health and wellness needs of teens in our community.

Sarah Pesi is Teen Engagement & Outreach Coordinator at the JCC & Policy Assistant at JHF. She can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected].

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