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2023 Teen Mental Health Advocacy Series Begins

The PA Youth Advocacy Network, a program of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, launched the 2023 Teen Mental Health Advocacy Series on February 1.The second annual series aims to connect Pennsylvania high school students with advocacy skills, such as communicating their cause, using data for advocacy, and coalition-building.

The 22 participants represent 9 counties across the commonwealth including Allegheny, Bucks, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Washington and York. 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 the nine virtual sessions through March 29, students will work to create a teen advocacy action guide for other teens and adult to use to learn about an issue and concrete advocacy steps that can be taken around the issue. In the series finale, teens will also have opportunities to work with mental health leaders to focus on concrete actions steps they can take to promote change.

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 established their key interests in teen mental health advocacy topics.

Guest speakers for the February sessions included: Ayala Rosenthal, teen engagement and outreach coordinator at The Friendship Circle, discussing the importance of youth voice in advocacy; Danyelle Borish, project coordinator for Stand Together, on the importance of language around mental health; a youth panel including Gia Cella, Aneedha Kandala, and Mohammad Shedeed spoke about using clubs to address stigma and form partnerships with adults and peers; Brooklyn Williams, who spoke about her advocacy and the Chill Club; Kelly Davis, associate vice president of peer and youth advocacy, Mental Health America; Jamal Ford, youth resource coordinator, PA Care Partnership; and Jesse Putkoski, area director, Western PA Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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 as well as an advocacy toolkit focused on an issue important to them.

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