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Kidsburgh: Program in Beaver County gives resources for teens struggling with mental health

Kidsburgh: Program in Beaver County gives resources for teens struggling with mental health
Kidsburgh: Program in Beaver County gives resources for teens struggling with mental health 03:35

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A recent study from the CDC found almost 3 in 5 teenage girls felt persistent sadness in 2021, and 1 in 3 girls seriously considered attempting suicide. Depression and anxiety are big problems among teenagers as a whole.

In Beaver County, an organization called the Young Ambassador Program, or YAP for short, is making a difference in helping young people with awareness and resources for mental health challenges.

It may look more like a school dance than a mental health event, but it's all part of teaching young people tools to help themselves and others, including dancing to relieve stress and anxiety.

Blackhawk High School junior Daniel Rodenbeck said, "I feel like mental health is a huge issue that we don't talk about enough that schools need to, in my opinion."

Cosso Benn, a senior at Beaver Falls High School, added, "I've seen a lot of depression and anxiety in my friends, and that's another reason I joined YAP, just to be able to help better with that and understand it better."

YAP holds big events like the one on April 19 at the Community College of Beaver County dome. YAP started 7 years ago by Beaver County Behavioral Health with only a handful of schools and growing.

Susan Smith, a YAP Coordinator, said, "Every school in Beaver County is involved in this initiative, and so what we do is we bring the students together three times a year, and we have really helped them to further develop their mental health toolkit."

In addition to the county-wide vents that happen three times a year, they also have individual events at their school that they plan year round.

Unfortunately, the need only increased after the pandemic.

YAP coordinator Alisia Majors said, "We have seen an influx in need here in Beaver County and increased need for mental health supports. We're seeing a lot of increased anxiety and depression and also a lot of trauma as a result of the pandemic."

Students say while there's less of a stigma to saying you have a mental health issue, it's still not easy.

Gabby Simmons, a senior at New Brighton Area High School, said, "I just feel as though our biggest problem as of right now is more that we would rather just take all that in to the point where we could potentially harm ourselves or just like worst case scenarios instead of just going to that one guidance counselor, that one person who could make a difference and change your perspective on how you feel."

The students are learning that despite the stigma, talking about it is critical.

Western Beaver High School Senior Laney Bernard said, "I've struggled with depression and anxiety a lot and a lot of my friends have as well, and even family members, so it's nice to come and learn new techniques to help them."

Many of the students find YAP events are the best place to talk with someone about their mental health struggles.

"Sometimes it's hard to go to other people for help, but you know, right here, we get to talk to everyone. Everyone here is a family. We get to be friends and family. That's all it is," said Bria Harris, a senior at Beaver Falls High School.

A senior at South Side Area High School, Polina Shannon said, "I could learn about what other people were dealing with and what they helped do and help them cope and help me cope too. "

Students learn how to help themselves and friends struggling -- with resources from the many people and organizations in the community at the tables and the new 988 suicide phone and text line where someone can text Hello to 741741.

Helping often starts with being a friend.

Cosso Benn said, "Even if they try to push you away, always try to be present and talk to that person as much as you can, whether it's just like a nice compliment or just talking to them when somebody else isn't."

The Youth Ambassadors Program is now in 20 schools including all high schools, public and private, in Beaver County, and it's expanding to include middle schools too.

If you know a young person who needs help, you can find more resources on

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