In February, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and the PA Youth Advocacy Network began the inaugural 2022 Teen Mental Health Advocacy Series. The series aims to connect Pennsylvania high school students with advocacy opportunities to call for better teen mental health resources. The 24 participants represent 10 counties, covering all regions of Pennsylvania. The students range from grades 9-12 and have varied experiences exploring and leading advocacy initiatives in their schools and communities. The Advocacy Series builds on JHF's years of effort to call for change in teen mental health through the PA Youth Advocacy Network.
During eight virtual sessions through March 23, participants will learn key advocacy skills, like community organizing, using data and community-based participatory research in advocacy, building energy and action around a cause, and connecting with elected officials. Teams of participants will then develop advocacy projects based on the Youth-Led Advocacy Platform, such as planning for Teen Mental Health Awareness Day events, advocating for school counselor resources by meeting with policymakers, and informing mental health curriculum plans in schools.
The February Advocacy Series sessions introduced participants to the series plan and connected them with community partners who are experienced in promoting teen mental health. The participants formed relationships with others in their communities, mapped community assets and stressors, and established their key interests in teen mental health advocacy topics. Guest speakers for these sessions included Ayala Rosenthal, teen engagement and outreach coordinator at Friendship Circle, Danyelle Borish, project coordinator at Stand Together, Susan Smith, youth services program specialist with the BCRC in Beaver County, Sophia Duck, training and engagement manager at The Mentoring Partnership SWPA, Jamal Ford, youth resources coordinator with the Pennsylvania Care Partnership, and Abby Rickin-Marks, youth mental health advocate and first-year student at Oberlin College.
The March sessions will provide participants with opportunities to network with leaders of organizations across Pennsylvania working to promote teen mental health, advance their advocacy projects, and build public will around their causes. Participants will complete the series with greater understanding and confidence in their abilities to promote positive change in their communities and to collaborate with others.
JHF will generate further conversation about youth voice with a session, Amplifying Youth Voice to Promote Teen Mental Health, during the Grantmakers in Health 2022 Annual Conference on Health Philanthropy. The conference will be held in Miami, Florida from Monday, June 27 – Wednesday June 29, with some virtual components. JHF's session will share insights from our work in youth advocacy and youth voice. Learn more about the conference here.