EMPOWERING & CONNECTING
YOUTH ADVOCATES ACROSS PA
The PA Youth Advocacy Network seeks to provide skills-building and advocacy opportunities for teens who have an interest in mental health. Youth advocates, connected as a powerful network for change across the Commonwealth, are committed to:
Educating teachers and students in mental health
Reducing disparities in mental health
Promoting suicide prevention and awareness
Creating safe and inclusive school environments
Addressing mental health as part of health
Inspired by national youth movements, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (based in Pittsburgh) sought to engage young people in this urgent call to action. The aim of developing a statewide youth advocacy network
is to connect a diverse group of student leaders, including teens with lived experience facing mental health challenges and their peers, to develop advocacy skills, understand implications of policy and resource allocation, and advocate for change. Since the initial advocacy summit in November 2018, youth have demonstrated they are a powerful force for change, leading advocacy and awareness building efforts in their own communities and joining together to advocate at the state level.
The PA Youth Advocacy Network brings together a diverse group of youth advocates and partner organizations, including Stand Together, The Second Floor at the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh, the Beaver County Youth Ambassadors Program, the Friendship Circle-Pittsburgh, UpStreet Pittsburgh, PA Care Partnership, Youth MOVE PA, The Mentoring Partnership, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
THE HARD TRUTH
Pennsylvania middle school and high school students reported feeling depressed or sad most days
13-18 year olds experience a seriously debilitating mental disorder
Parents surveyed said their teen experienced a new or worsening mental health condition after the pandemic started, and pandemic restrictions made it difficult to seek help
Too often, teens and families who are coping with a mental health or substance use crisis can’t access the right service, at the right time. Families may wait ten hours or more to get their teen evaluated during a crisis, only to be told that there are no hospital beds available unless they travel to a distant city. They may wade through directories of support services that aren’t current, only to find no outpatient services openings, no immediate support services, or no insurance coverage when openings occur. The teen may drop out of school, or get expelled, while the family pleads for help.
We simply have not invested in the mental health of our teens. We have a broken safety net because we have not provided enough services, trained enough therapists and support staff, or built enough centers to help teens and families cope.