NAMI starts mid­dle school sup­port group

Teens don’t need a di­ag­no­sis for #OK2Talk, a safe space to share their chal­lenges.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com

The Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness Austin has started its first sup­port group for mid­dle school­ers.

The group, called #OK2Talk, is up and run­ning at KIPP and is start­ing an­other one that is open to any mid­dle-schooler. It’s free be­cause of fund­ing from the St. David’s Foun­da­tion.

Teens don’t have to be sui­ci­dal or even have a di­ag­no­sis to sign up. They just have to want to talk to other kids who are deal­ing with some of the same men­tal health strug­gles.

“We know the need is there,” said Karen Ranus, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of NAMI Austin. Sta­tis­tics show one in five kids ages 13-18 in the U.S. ex­pe­ri­ences a men­tal health con­di­tion in any given year; only half of them ac­tu­ally re­ceive ser­vices.

“This is the per­fect age,” Ranus said be­cause of­ten they feel so alone and this is of­ten the time when kids start feel­ing over­whelmed, with in­creased anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. The sup­port group will help them know that there are other kids like them, Ranus said. “It’s a safe space to share their chal­lenges.”

While the sup­port group is not ther­apy, there will be men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als there who will help teens learn some cop­ing skills. The group meets noon to 1:30 p.m. Satur­days at the African Amer­i­can Youth Har­vest Foun­da­tion, 6633 U.S. 290 Frontage Road., Suite 307. It will in­clude pizza or sand­wiches as well.

To sign up, down­load a reg­is­tra­tion form (go to nami­austin.org, hover over Sup­port and se­lect #OK2Talk for Teens) and re­turn it to #OK2Talk pro­gram di­rec­tor Jes­sica Miller at jes­sica.miller@nami­austin.org. She can also be reached at 512-420-9810 ext. 1003.

Have more ques­tions? Call Miller or check out the Fre­quently Asked Ques­tions on the nami­austin.org site.

Ranus hopes to start a high school group in the fall and bring more sup­port groups to other mid­dle schools.

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