Youth Mental Health Initiative

Youth Mental Health Initiative
Posted on 02/03/2022
Initiative Steering Team Student Delegates

The community is coming together to help the youth of Transylvania County, and TCS is helping lead the initiative. We are thrilled to have an outstanding group helping voice the needs and concerns of our schools' students, staff, and parents. 

The representatives from TCS are: 

Davidson River - Principal Barbara Grimm and student Aiden King  

Brevard High School- teacher Adria Hardy, students Cora McCall and Elijah Simon, and parent Julie Workman 

Rosman Schools - Principal Scott Strickler, counselor, Sarah Shawver, social worker Shanaia Powell, and student delegates Jonathan Meeks and Trinity Wilbanks.  

Student Services Director Missy Ellenberger and Public Information Officer Jen Heatherly. 


Convened by the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative, this youth mental health initiative brings together a broad coalition of youth, school, and community leaders that will develop and implement a strategic plan to prioritize these concerns and address them in an effective way. 


The group’s initial focus will be ensuring that every youth in Transylvania County feels heard and supported. The long-term vision will be helping all youth feel confident and secure in connection, purpose, and hope.


The tragic loss of multiple young members of our community in recent months has affected our community profoundly. There are also many indicators of a broad level of mental health distress among our youth.


“While we face the coronavirus pandemic, we face a mental health epidemic too that has reached alarming levels into 2022,” said Rosman High School student Johnathan Meeks.


Local primary care and behavioral health providers have reported significant increases in mental health-related office visits for concerns such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. School administrators report increases in behavioral suspensions related to impaired coping skills, and stories from students, parents, and faculty also suggest increased levels of anxiety and depression. Despite many acts of compassion and support, some youth feel that “nothing’s changed” and “we don’t feel heard and supported.”   


There is emerging consensus that immediate responses are important but are unlikely to change the overall mental health status of youth; that without significant changes, broad emotional suffering will persist and more tragedies will likely occur; that our schools did not cause these problems and lack the capacity and resources to solve them alone; that effective intervention will require the coordinated efforts of youth, schools, and community; and that no framework currently exists in Transylvania County to make a broad collaborative effort feasible and sustainable.


The first major work of this initiative has been to bring together a steering team to determine core strategies and identify an action plan to be implemented over the next six months. This steering team includes representatives from The Family Place, Transylvania County Schools, Transylvania Public Health, the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative, Blue Ridge Health, Blue Zones Brevard, Brevard Academy, Hendersonville Pediatrics, Transylvania County DSS, and Young Life, as well as parents and youth themselves. Meeks is one of five high school student delegates on the steering team.


“I'm glad to be participating in this work, not just as a voice but as a coequal with the same goal,” Meeks said. “My objective as a student delegate is to bring an end to the crisis that brought us together in the first place.”


While this initiative is just getting started, since December 2021, participants have already assisted with suicide prevention awareness events and training at school and community venues, hosted faculty listening sessions at county high schools to gather feedback about concerns and needs, and distributed yard signs to provide encouragement and hope throughout the county.


The initiative will be sharing specific ways to get involved with its efforts in February. People who are interested in receiving more information about these activities and how to participate can sign up for email updates at https://sites.google.com/view/transylvaniayouthmentalhealth/.

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