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Youth Advocates Ramp Up Action as Summer Begins

PA State Representative Sara Innamorato

The school year may be ending, but the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's (JHF) Youth Advocacy Network members aren't slowing down anytime soon. In June, youth connected with Pennsylvania Representative Sara Innamorato to discuss mental health in schools, strategies to combat stigma, and mental health resources in the context of racial inequality. The call brought together youth from Fox Chapel, Shaler, Frasier, Winchester Thurston, North Allegheny, and Shadyside, continuing their advocacy campaign to share messages about mental health awareness with legislators.

Youth and community members then joined a webinar on suicide prevention, awareness and youth advocacy led by Katrice Stallworth, youth advocate and 2020 graduate of Penn Hills Senior High School. Katrice engaged call participants with polls to discuss their perceptions and mental health experiences considering recent events relating to the coronavirus and racial injustice protests. The presentation also sparked further discussion about developing a central mental health advocacy platform. When asked what the Youth Advocacy Network means to her, Katrice said, "It's been amazing for me to connect with other people who are passionate about mental health," calling the platform "a great outlet for me to learn and share new information."

In addition to the Youth Advocacy Network, JHF continues to support youth organizations, including partners of the UpStreet neighborhood-based teen mental health initiative in Squirrel Hill. As part of UpStreet, students at the Yeshiva Girls School used their training from Stand Together to brainstorm support strategies for peers experiencing depression or anxiety during the pandemic. The students created and sent a video to their entire high school, offering support, encouragement, and ideas for coping through this crisis. Here is the link to view the video: https://youtu.be/WC0vYSaEA7A

Later this summer, JHF is offering part-time virtual work opportunities through Partner4Work's Summer Learn & Earn Program to youth interested in mental health advocacy. For their final project, teams of youth will design strategies for incorporating teen mental health and wellness into school systems, community centers, or out-of-school activities. Youth will then present their projects to school administrators and community members.

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