BEVERLY — Talking about mental health doesn’t always have to be a somber affair, teens demonstrated at an upbeat festival in Beverly on Saturday.
More than 115 area teens attended North Shore Teen Mental Health Day on Saturday at Obear Park. The event was planned and overseen by approximately 50 high school students from Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Manchester, Ipswich, Danvers and Rockport, known as the Regional Youth Prevention Network. The network, a program overseen by the Gloucester Health Department, formed in December 2020. Members quickly identified mental health as a key issue among their peers that they wanted to address early in their work.
In the region’s most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, more than 30% of area high school students said they “felt depressed enough for at least two weeks that [they] stopped usual activities.”
“It was an emotionally safe way for young people to get out and socialize with their peers, after an incredibly hard year,” Regional Youth Prevention Network Director Amy Epstein said. “The Regional Youth Coalition quickly identified mental health as a huge concern for their peers, which was only exacerbated by the pandemic. The festival offered a free, fun way for teens to access resources, learn about healthy habits and self care, and simply enjoy themselves. The day was planned by teens, for teens, and I think we saw that it was a really powerful, yet cheerful way to talk about mental health on Saturday.”
The event was open to all North Shore teens, and attendees on Saturday enjoyed a mini-carnival; visited with therapy dogs; enjoyed free refreshments; played lawn games and made art; received airbrush tattoos; took group photos in a photobooth; partook in plate-smashing; learned about Juneteenth; entered raffles; and visited informational tables with mental health and other community resources for young people.
Community groups in attendance included: Gloucester Health Department, Younity, NAMI, Children’s Friend and Family, Beverly Library, Dog B.O.N.E.S. Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts, Youth Peace Movement, Gloucester Youth Leadership Council, SAGA Cape Ann/NAGLY, local mental health counselors, and more.
“North Shore Teen Mental Health Day is for high school-age youth and is intended to spread mental health awareness and resources, and also for us to simply enjoy parts of life many of us miss as we get older; as well as providing some fun and lightness during this tough time,” said Annika Johnson, a youth Coalition member and freshman at Ipswich High School.
About the Regional Youth Prevention Network
The Regional Youth Prevention Network is a coalition of direct service agencies, stakeholders and other representatives from Gloucester, Manchester, Essex, Rockport, Ipswich, Beverly, and Danvers. The network meets regularly with the mission of connecting direct service providers to close gaps and share prevention resources and best practices, and is led by Regional Prevention Director Amy Epstein.
For more information, contact Regional Prevention Director Epstein at [email protected].