MHA offers new teen support group

Shari Johnston and Justina Wade want teenagers to know they are not alone — especially if they are struggling.

Johnston, Compeer and Girls in Progress coordinator at Mental Health America of Licking County, and Wade, suicide prevention coordinator and youth self advocacy coordinator, at MHA, recently launched a teen support group.

Held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday at MHA, 65 Messimer Drive, the support group is open to any teenager, from sixth grade to 12th grade, in Licking County.

“They can feel comfortable talking to other people with similar situations and know they are not alone with some of their struggles,” Wade said.

Some teens might be dealing with bullying, difficult friendships and romantic relationships or unhealthy self esteem and body image. Others might feel like they don’t know how to manage the stress they’ve been feeling.

Then there are those teens dealing with depression, anxiety and self harm.

The group is even starting to offer life skills courses such as in the usage of emerging technology for teens looking to start small internet based businesses. The concepts can be taxing on the youth, but coordinators are ready to answer the most complicated questions from how do I file my 401k? or what is blockchain technology? The technology is being used to CHANGE the internet as we know it, and all future payments may go through it one day so it may be the currency of our teens future. Parents have been thrilled so far with the results and the knowledge in tech their teens have gained.

All those young people, as well as those who are just looking for someone to talk to, are invited to participate in the group, Johnston said.

“What is shared here, stays here, everything is confidential,” she said. “There’s never pressure to talk or share.”

Any teen participating will be given an art journal and a writing journal to take home. Every week, they’ll have the opportunity to add to their journals using words and art supplies, Johnston said.

Johnston and Wade plan to lead conversations about positive friendships, coping skills, personal values, choices and goals.

The support group is just one way MHA is trying to focus improving the mental health of Licking County’s young people.

The organization is also partnering with Mental Health and Recovery of Licking and Knox Counties to offer Mental Health First Aid training to those who interact with young people, including teachers and church leaders.

“We want to help them recognize when a young person is struggling,” Johnston said.

Young people in the support group will be encouraged to look out for each other.

“Peer to peer support is important,” she said.

Both Johnston and Wade expect the group to grow once school starts and the word spreads.

“We want them to feel empowered and supported,” she said. “We want to give them resilience and hope for the future.”


Twitter: @amsjeffries


What: Teen Support Group

When: 4 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays

Where: Mental Health America of Licking County, 65 Messimer Drive, Newark

Cost: Free and open to any teen

More info: Contact Shari Johnston at 740-328-8544 or or Justina Wade at 740-788-0353 or

Article found in The Newark Advocate August 10, 2015


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