Teen support groups build resiliency and community
When the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque hosted listening sessions to identify the most pressing brain health needs of local youth in December, those caring for teens expressed concern.
“Many adolescents are experiencing anxiety and depression, due to both typical social-emotional needs and increased isolation caused by the pandemic and its aftermath,” says Julie Homb, a licensed mental health counselor who leads the Community Foundation’s children’s brain health work.
In answer to requests from parents and brain health practitioners who have recognized the need, the Foundation is partnering with Hillcrest Family Services to provide twice-weekly virtual group counseling sessions this summer for teens ages 13 through 16. The free sessions are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon, and participants can join at any time during the summer.
“Critical brain changes occur during this stage in children’s lives. The teenage brain needs to be ‘fed’ with socialization and connection in order to realize optimal mental fitness,” says Homb. “Connection with peers is critical for teens. This group provides a platform for them to meet others, share experiences and discuss skills and strategies for overcoming life's obstacles, creating the opportunity for resiliency and emotional strength.”
To learn more or join the Zoom sessions, contact counselor Kristin Nolen at 563-590-4930 or Kristin.email@example.com. The group is designed to be a private, safe place for teens to talk about how they’re coping, learn from trained counselors how to manage tough feelings, and get back to feeling good again. The sessions will help teens better understand emotional regulation and coping strategies, feel a sense of community through connection with peers, and take charge of their own brain health in a judgement-free setting.
“Post-pandemic, we have seen an increase in depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms. It has been an extreme adjustment for young people to make sense of what is going on while focusing on next steps like high school, college, social lives and trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be,” says Nolen. “This can be a way for them to ask questions, see what resources are out there and build a support system. We want teens to know they aren't alone.”
The Community Foundation convened its children’s brain health working group, a network of more than 10 community partners, in the fall of 2019 to connect parents, teachers and organizations working to address children’s social-emotional needs. The group grew out of the Foundation’s ongoing brain health initiative, which focuses on building partnerships to address barriers to adult brain health care. The Foundation's 2016 community needs assessment revealed that a lack of access to brain health services is one of main barriers to opportunity for many residents.
“The uncertainty of the past year has put a strain on the well-being of families and children in our community,” said Peter Supple, economic opportunity coordinator for the Community Foundation. “With both our adult and children’s brain health work, our goal is the same: Ensure people are on a path to long-term success. It’s work that is about transforming how the community serves its people — so people can go on to better serve the community.”
To get involved in the conversation, join Supple on August 5 for a virtual discussion about bridging gaps in brain health care. Learn more and RSVP for the August 5 event.