BI kids, parents increasingly seek mental health help

Bainbridge kids are increasingly seeking help for mental health issues.

In 2020, Bainbridge Youth Services mental health counselors saw 167 kids and that number increased to 238 in 2022, a 43 percent increase. While that is a lot, consider that from 2020 to 2022 requests doubled.

Youth Mental Health Counseling and Peer Tutoring are the two biggest programs at BYS, and both are in high demand. To meet the growing need, BYS will begin offering new programming in January for guardians through its new Parent Peer Support Groups.

Shannon Amelang, BYS program manager of Family Services, said: “Healthy families create a healthy community. The more we can support parents in their challenging and rewarding work of parenting, the healthier our community will be.”

Because BYS understands that healthy youth start with healthy families, it merged with Raising Resilience in May, which led to the parent-peer support program.

Raising Resilience is now the parenting arm of BYS. Some BYS staff conducted a listening tour to hear directly from parents of a variety of school-age children, as well as community members, school administrators and private practice counselors.

“Among the things that BYS learned was that parents feel disconnected from other parents going through similar situations, and they would like more peer-to-peer support,” Amelang said. So BYS began offering one-on-one counseling for parents, as well as the parent peer support group, to come together and make connections.

In October, feedback from participants in a four-week pilot for parents of high school children was overwhelmingly positive. One respondent said, “It provided invaluable resources, discussion and the sense of not being alone in parenting challenges.”

Amalang hopes the new groups will connect parents, offer a space where they can learn that they are not alone and offer support from other parents as well as professional facilitators in a safe place to share and explore parenting situations.

BYS hopes to serve parents by offering three, six-week sessions of peer support groups throughout 2023.

For the winter session starting in January, BYS is offering five groups: four of which are determined by age and developmental stage of the children, and one is a bilingual group for Spanish-speaking parents.

“We anticipate offering five or more groups in our spring session and again in the fall session,” Amalang said. “Our hope is that any parent feeling the need for connection and support will find it in the programs BYS is offering.”

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