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Communities for Youth: Boise's initiative to have conversations and create connections for teenagers

Posted at 5:09 PM, Sep 18, 2023

BOISE, Idaho — Mental health struggles look different for every generation. In partnership with St. Luke’s and the City of Boise, BSU graduate students are helping create a space to talk about these struggles in the Communities for Youth program.

“What we see from the data is that children are under a lot of stress and social isolation,” says Libbie Luevanos, a Graduate student in Boise State’s Public Health program.

Calling all parents, families, teens, business leaders and other community members who want to join the conversation to improve our youth’s mental health.

“I would say, that’s the exciting part about working on the upstream approach, because if you are part of our community, you already have exactly what you need to contribute and help us understand how to make this community better, right?” says Megan Smith, Ph.D., Director of Communities for Youth.

Initiative leaders are calling their method “Upstream Prevention” meaning they want to solve issues Boise teens are facing before they snowball into larger mental health problems. Not all mental health conditions can be addressed, but with the lack of providers in the field, these community groups will aim to decrease the need for professional help.

“Those are significant resources that are needed for mental and behavioral health, but we’re focused more upstream to try to prevent folks from experiencing those mental health challenges,” says Angie Gribble, Senior Director, Community Health and Engagement, St. Luke’s.

Boise State Public Health Graduate students get to facilitate the conversations once meetings begin in the community.

“I feel like a lot of the time, children aren’t allotted a lot of the same attention as adults are. And it’s hard for them to advocate for themselves and I really wanted to be a part of children advocating for themselves,” says Luevanos.

Mental Health challenges affecting our youth can be daunting, especially with roughly 33% of Boise teenagers are dealing with some level of depression. But Communities for Youth leaders say there is hope for change in Idaho.

“The exciting part about the work that we're doing is that it provides us a great deal of hope. I know that we can change, how socially connected our young people are in our communities,” says Smith.

The first public meeting will take place on Wednesday September 20 at 3:30-5pm at Boise’s city hall and is welcome to the community. You can find the registration link to that event here.

You can also learn more Tuesday Sept. 19 at a ‘Helping Youth Improve Mental Health and Prevent Suicide Health Talk.’ Those interested in attending a meeting about Idaho’s data led by St. Luke’s providers can register here. The virtual meeting will go over resources and strategies to support youth and families.