Organizations Partner to Help Transitioning Youth
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(BOWIE, Md.) – Over 300 mental health experts and African American youth from across Prince George’s County participated in the Inaugural Greatest of All Time (GOAT) Mental Health Expo held at Bowie State University on Saturday, May 14, to raise awareness about anxiety, depression, suicide, and the growing risk of other mental health issues that are plaguing 15 -25 year old African American youth. The Expo also provided a mechanism for caregivers to collaborate and begin developing strategies to help youth learn methods to effectively identify warning signs and manage their mental health through systems of care in the county.
The GOAT Expo 2022—a partnership formed with Volunteers of America Chesapeake & Carolinas, Prince George’s County Health Department, Step Forward, and the Bowie State University Graduate Student Association—included a plenary session, workshops, and exhibitors from health, mental health, and behavioral health agencies primarily geared to caregivers. Interactive activities including live entertainment, open mic, dance contests, and more were provided to engage youth and young adults.
“African American young people, particularly men in Prince George’s County and across our nation, are in trouble,” said Dr. Sheryl Neverson, a social worker and vice president for Volunteers of America Chesapeake and Carolinas. “And trouble is probably stating it too mildly. They are in dire straits. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people 15 - 25 years of age and the situation appears to be getting worse due to COVID. Another major hurdle to overcome is the lack of African American therapists.
According to 2019 data from the census bureau, only 4% of mental health therapists are African American. In addition, two-fifths or 40% of Black people in America meet the criteria for anxiety disorder or depressive disorder since the beginning of the COVID pandemic based on a needs assessment developed by the Association of Black Psychologists. Dr. Neverson believes that is problematic.
“Without the proper number of mental health therapists available to serve African American communities, it is imperative that organizations work together to help young people who need mental wellness support,” she said. “That’s why the goals for the GOAT Mental Health Expo were to increase health awareness by providing mental health and primary care screenings; distribute informational materials to attendees; motivate participants to make positive behavior changes; and removal of the stigma associated with mental wellness,” said Dr. Neverson.
The various workshop sessions at the Expo addressed loving yourself, happiness, depression, anxiety, motivation, positivity, sowing seeds for success, seeking therapy, grief/loss among adolescents, and other topics.
“Partnering with the other organizations to provide a pathway for individuals who need help is what it’s all about,” said Liberty Carter, vice president of Bowie State’s Graduate Student Association. “We will look forward to expanding our relationships with our partners and raising the awareness of mental health on BSU’s campus.”
“The mental wellness problem in the African American community did not develop overnight nor will it be solved overnight,” said Dr. Neverson. “Organizations have to continue to work together to help our youth and there mental wellness issues, otherwise a large percentage of young people will be unable to function in society or they’ll die young. It’s sad but true.”
About Bowie State University
Bowie State University (BSU) is an important higher education access portal for qualified persons from diverse academic and socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking a high-quality and affordable public comprehensive university. The university places special emphasis on the science, technology, cybersecurity, teacher education, business, and nursing disciplines within the context of a liberal arts education. For more information about BSU, visit bowiestate.edu.