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Community resources helping strengthen mental health in teens

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) — At the La Crosse Area Family YMCA Teen Center, a number of programs and activities happen everyday with a focus on mental health.

The center, that’s been open since 2005, is a place for teens to hangout, make friends, participate in activities, and just be a teen. It’s also a place for teens to talk about the issues they face and seek help from professionals.

“All of the things that we do here, the relationships we build, the physical activity, thinking about how we eat, how we fuel ourselves, all of that has an impact on our mental health,” said Sarah Johnson, mental health director for La Crosse Area Family YMCA.

The walls of the center include important messages about mental health. Several types of groups are available for teens to connect and talk about their mental health. One is even called “Mindfulness, Just Breathe.” Johnson hopes that teens will consider their mental health everyday.

“We’re teaching youth how to do basic life skills, and that includes emotion management and coping skills, how you communicate how you are feeling,” said Johnson. “The foundation is caring for yourself.”

Adults can seek out training to help their teenager or teenagers in need. Better Together is a program that trains adults about dealing with mental health issues for teenagers. Facets of this eight-year grant project include small group meetings where the discussion focuses on helping teenagers and understanding them.

There is also a training component called, “Youth Mental Health First Aid” where community members can receive training on spotting signs of disarray in teenagers.

“Youth Mental Health First Aid is an eight hour training that talks about typical adolescent development, what to look for, what’s really normal for adolescents on how they think feel and act,” said Bethany Thier, program coordinator for Better Together.

Other organizations like The Good Fight Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse also provides outlets for teens.

Teen drop-ins are welcome at the La Crosse YMCA Teen Center. Hours are Monday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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