Boys Town South Florida recently hosted its first Family Community Action Summit, bringing together experts to discuss youth mental health and solution-driven action.“We are living in different times. Children and families are struggling with many issues, including the effects of the pandemic and non-stop social media pressure. As a result, our youth are experiencing a dramatic rise in mental and behavioral health issues," said Bethany Lacey, Executive Director of Boys Town South Florida.
Through a panel discussion including Dr. Mary Claire Mucenic, Director of Behavioral and Mental Health Services at the School District of Palm Beach County; Dr. Diane Kelly Andreou, Director of the outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic at Boys Town South Florida; Dr. Lisa Williams-Taylor, CEO of the Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County; and the Honorable Judge Luis Delgado, who presided in the Juvenile Division for six years and has recently moved to the Circuit Civil Division with the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida, the panel moderator Derek Harris, attorney with Carlton Fields and Boys Town South Florida board member, led a very important discussion about the crisis of youth mental health in our South Florida communities as well as across the country.
With the increase of youth mental health cases even before the pandemic, children and young adults are experiencing more mental and behavioral issues than ever. According to the CDC, the suicide rate in youth ages 10-to-24 has risen 60% since 2007. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in that age group.
The Action Summit was the perfect platform to recognize Boys Town South Florida's Family of the Year; Bella, age 15, and her mom, Elissa (featured in picture attached). Bella suffered through bullying in elementary and middle school and living in isolation during the pandemic. This led to having intrusive thoughts. Bella needed help coping with anxiety and that is when her mom contacted Boys Town's outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic. After a few therapy sessions, Elissa realized Boys Town is the same organization that offers Primary Project at some of the elementary schools within the School District of Palm Beach County. That group helped Bella when she was 5-years old to ease her transition into kindergarten. Almost eight years later, Bella once again was able to find help at Boys Town South Florida, this time with Dr. Steve, a pediatric psychologist who Bella admires.
“I am very grateful to Dr. Steve for teaching me coping skills that I will be able to take with me to college and well into my adult life," Bella said.The purpose of the Family Community Action Summit is to raise awareness of what needs to be done to create a movement through local partnerships of stakeholders in order to support more children with mental health challenges -- be it in the public or private sectors, nonprofit organizations, or government led efforts. The more parties we can identify to join these efforts, the better.
A big thank you goes out to Florida Power and Light, the presenting sponsor of the Action Summit, and to everyone who attended it.