Support adolescent health: Become a trusted adult 

Today, we’re welcoming Health Education Specialist TaShana Jaudon to the newsletter! TaShana works with RHHD’s Adolescent Health Program; currently, she is hosting the programs 13th Annual Healthy Living for Youth Health Fairs in partnership with Richmond Public Schools Health and PE Departments. Take it away, TaShana:

In May, I’m excited to shine a spotlight on two observances close to my heart: National Adolescent Health Month™ and Mental Health Awareness Month. These awareness campaigns resonate deeply with the work that has been done through RHHD’s Adolescent Health Program, and they speak to the passion I have for serving the youth in our community. It’s great that the months are paired, because both focus on recognizing needs that can be hard to put words to and raising awareness about challenging conditions.

Teens are going through some of the hardest things. They can be overlooked when community programs focus on little ones and older residents. But my heart is for the teenage population, because I can remember being a teen and how hard it was. I remember not having a trusted adult to talk to about some of these things. Middle and high school years are pivotal times in the development of your personality and decision-making skills. Positive interactions with a trusted adult are crucial as they are able to provide guidance and support. Also, these relationships can provide prevention and protective factors for youth. If we can reach them at an early age, I’ve seen those relationships change the trajectory of their lives.

I’ve been with the health department working with teens for 18 years, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in focus and in needs. Adolescent health historically included a strong focus on teen pregnancy prevention. These initiatives have been highly successful, contributing to a significant decline in teen pregnancy rates over the past few decades. Now, we recognize that adolescent health encompasses much more than this issue alone, and we address a wider range of health concerns. This includes substance abuse prevention, addressing mental health, healthy relationships, stress management, social media usage, nutrition, and overall wellness.

We know that the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing, and this trend is especially true for LGBTQ+ teens and Black youth. As there’s more conversation around anxiety and depression, we can address these challenges, give them a name, and help youth find words for the feelings they’re experiencing.

In any session or event, no matter the topic, I ask teens “do you have a trusted adult you can talk to?” Because it matters who gives them the information. A trusted adult might not always be a parent; it can be anyone—ideally over 25!—with whom they have a relationship and feel comfortable.

When we acknowledge the broader spectrum of issues affecting young people today, we can create a generation of healthier, happier, and more resilient individuals. If you want resources about becoming a trusted resource for the youth in your life, you can explore some of the following:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services includes training and support for caring adults in their Take Action for Adolescents toolkit.
  • Mental Health America shares guidance for having productive conversations about mental health with youth. The most important takeaway: Be prepared to listen and learn from the teen.
  • In the past few years, Congress and the Lifeline program have created a dedicated number for mental health crisis support: 988. People can call or text 988 or chat for themselves or if they are worried about a loved one who needs help.

If you’re a teen and you want to receive health messages scan this QR code or text 804-315-1199 to receive free text messages from RHHD Adolescent Health Program. Every month, we share health-related, teen-friendly tips to promote healthy decision making.

Let’s all commit to making a positive difference in the lives of the youth in our communities!