As young students navigate issues like anxiety, bullying, family problems, depression and substance abuse, it’s all too common for them to feel like they’re facing these battles alone. The familiarity of a school environment, where youths spend more time than anywhere else, is the perfect place for adolescents to access counseling and support. Unfortunately, most school districts are understaffed to meet the behavioral and mental health needs of their grade, middle and high schools.
The Ecumenical Center has been serving Independent School Districts in Bexar, Wilson and Nueces counties since 2016. We started by providing crisis response counseling teams that would go on campus and stay on campus to talk to students, family and faculty members. That has evolved into a school program where we embed a counselor on each campus on a weekly basis to offer counseling beyond crisis care.
This year, as we grew our community partnerships and expanded our focus on behavioral health in youth through The Center for Young Minds, we decided it was time to make the school program official. We have named it Youth Are Not Alone. Among the many services we are offering the districts at no cost to them or to the students and families are:
- Mental health first aid
- Safety in school education
- Parenting classes
- Grief counseling
- Bullying and anti-bullying consultation
- Psychological testing
Our school-embedded model isn’t the only thing that makes Youth Are Not Alone unique and effective. The Center’s background as a Trauma-Informed Certifying Agency means we are trained in creating an environment of physical and emotional safety and fostering trust that promotes healing in youth. We apply the same principles when counseling family and faculty members, who carry their own trauma, to break the cycle of trauma.
Youth Are Not Alone also plugs districts into the vast resources of The Center’s internal programs, like the Health and Harmony Wellness Program, including options for art, poetic medicine and rhythm making therapy. And because we’re taking the time to listen to youths by forming roundtable discussions and youth councils, students are helping us shape the solution with how they want to be approached.
Our goal is that Youth Are Not Alone would provide focused support to every student in South Texas. We hope you’ll join us in spreading the word to school districts and encouraging them to leave no doubt in their students’ minds that they do not face their adversities alone.