LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — In Lynchburg, several organizations gathered on Saturday to address mental health management for young students during the 16th Annual Taking The Lead Youth Summit at the Jubilee Family Development Center.
Event officials want students to remember that leading a healthy life also includes mental health. “Youth Summit” co-chair, Rhonda Turner, says the event taught kids about everything from substance abuse prevention to the impact of social media.
“So, we wanted to bring something to the youth where we would address not just HIV but address substance abuse, mental health, address all those issues that youth are faced with,” said Turner.
Turner says they made sure the kids had a voice in creating this event. It was hosted by the Coalition for HIV Awareness and Prevention (CHAP) in partnership with several community sponsors.
Chair of the event, Debra Jefferson, says they wanted the kids to be at the forefront of the discussions held during the event. She said they let students choose what they talked about, based on the concerns they’re facing on a day-to-day basis.
“They gave us these topics, that they want to discuss,” said Jefferson.
Guest speaker, Cooper Scott shared his story of overcoming his battle with substance abuse that began when he was a young teen.
“You don’t think about it when you’re 14, you just think oh this could be fun, like you don’t think about the reality of what could be in that and that it could so easily take your life,” said Scott.
Scott shared what he wishes he had known when he was their age.
“Kids are silent a lot when they’re struggling, I was for sure,” said Scott.
He says when you’re struggling, the most important thing you should do is speak up.
“There are good people that they can trust that will have their back, and that being cool doesn’t always end up making you look cool,” said Scott.
Prevention Specialist with Horizon Behavioral Health, Mikayla White, says youth mental health concerns are on the rise– adding that to help kids, you need to listen to kids.
“Youth experience a lot more stressors and challenges than adults think, and that they really do have so much to say,” said White.
Event co-chairs say they hope kids will take what they learn and share it with others.
If you are looking to get involved there are several local organizations providing resources to empower young people. Some of these include the Jubilee Family and Development Center, Horizon Behavioral Health, Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, as well as CHAP.