Teens are Talking at Hope

Teens are Talking at Hope

The world is moving faster and faster each year. Cell phones and computers allow students to access massive amounts of information at breakneck speed that can be overwhelming and anxiety-producing. Statistics from the past decade of the National Institute of Mental Health reported 2.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode, and an estimated 31.9% of adolescents had an anxiety disorder. According to 2017 CDC statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 12 to 18. In addition to societal challenges, many of Hope’s students also experience home life trauma resulting from gun violence, homelessness, substance/domestic abuse and emotional illness in their families.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Hanover Foundation, over 50% of Hope’s middle schoolers have a safe and comfortable place to share their feelings, work through conflicts, and learn new coping strategies for dealing with life’s challenges today. Our resident psychologist, Jaynay Johnson, MFT, provides her much needed Teen Talk Therapy services right in our middle school. In an October Philadelphia Inquirer article, Ms. Johnson said, “As we have pushed for more awareness around mental health and anxiety and depression, we have a lot more teens willing to share their experiences.”

Hope students helped design Ms. Johnson’s oasis of healing office space to ensure they feel right at home when they have serious talking to do about their complex lives. As soon as you enter, your sense of smell is activated – warm, sweet scents permeate the space to calm the nerves of anxious students. Next time you visit us, ask middle schoolers about the reason for the “Pink” therapist chair, the specially designed papasan seating for students and the tropical motif wall decorations. Middle schoolers come to Ms. Johnson’s office at various times of the day for individual sessions and also have the benefit of her expertise in restorative group conversations to settle peer conflicts or to figure out tough classroom situations. Here’s what students have to say about this new, but important aspect of our MS program:

“Ms. Jaynay helps me calm down and work through my problems.”

“I like therapy because it allows me to be myself rather than putting on a mask for other people.”

“Ms. Jaynay helped me express my feelings more and didn’t judge me for my mistakes.”

Hope families will also have the opportunity to do some talking and listening. Ms. Johnson will create periodic YouTube videos covering key topics related to adolescent development that parents/guardians can access on-line from the convenience of their own homes. Stay tuned!

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