NEW YORK — Wednesday was World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a day to raise greater awareness about the mental health issues among teens.
A Queens nonprofit is tackling this head on, opening a new mental health clinic. CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got an exclusive first look and spoke to teens about the need.
“It’s been a rocky road, honestly,” said Saskia Walters, a junior at Martin Van Buren High School.
Two pandemic years have been tough to navigate as a teen.
“Sitting behind a computer screen all day was very stressful,” Saskia said.
“Before, like, the pandemic and quarantine, I was so goofy, bubbly, like, so outgoing and now I just, like, isolate myself,” said Francesca Pierre, a senior at Martin Van Buren High School.
Francesca suffered in silence for months before opening up about feeling depressed.
“Mental health wasn’t such, like, a big thing that was talked about, so, like, when it did happen to me I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Both teens were approached by staff at their high school who connected them to programs in partnership with Commonpoint Queens. The nonprofit says the pandemic exacerbated the need for youth mental health services.
“This last summer, we surveyed over 6,000 summer youth employment participants to find out what do they need, what do they want,” said Commonpoint Queens CEO Danielle Ellman. “Our young people reported feeling isolated, feeling depressed, feeling anxious.”
Commonpoint quickly responded, within months creating a safe haven for those in need.
Their new adolescent mental health clinic in Little Neck offers individual and group therapy spaces.
“Really welcoming,” Ellman said. “Nutrition groups, gender-based groups…”
She says the doors are open to anyone, even without insurance, closing the gap in access to mental health services.
“The real driving force of this clinic is to help our young people feel like kids again, to have access to health care … that is affordable, that is high quality, that is not in sacrifice of anything else,” Ellman said.
As chair of the New York City Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions, Linda Lee points out not addressing mental health can lead to hospitalization, homelessness or incarceration, all which comes at a cost to the city.
“What we need to do is make sure that we get them at early stages, we’re able to help them and give them the service that they need early on,” she said.
She says preventative services are critical, like the new space located at Sam Field Center, which already has an adult outpatient mental health clinic. Its director, Debra Ilberman, says the addition of the new clinic means entire families can get help in one place.
“It’s really stigmatized, especially if you’re a kid, and I’m really hoping by having this welcoming setting that kids are gonna realize … I can get help for this, I can get better,” she said.
“I think a lot of teens would appreciate and take advantage of that because a lot of people don’t really know who they can talk to,” Saskia said.
The long-term goal is to add primary care to the clinic so families have access to all aspects of health care under one roof.
The clinic officially opens March 14, but it’s already accepting inquiries. Telehealth is also an option.
To sign up, visit commonpointqueens.org/program/youth-mental-health-services.