Twin Cities Nonprofits Unite to Provide Mental Health Support to Young Women

The pandemic has created a mental health crisis as young people struggle with insecurity, isolation, loss and the stress of growing up. In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency for children’s mental health.

Over the past year, two non-profit organizations in Twin Cities have teamed up to help increase mental health support for girls in high school and high school.

“I’ve noticed a lot of concern,” said Nicole Eta, program manager for Girls Taking Action. “There is always this unknown fear of what will happen and there is so much pressure on girls these days, whether it’s perfectionism or constant comparison.

Girls Taking Action enables young women to find their goal. The organization meets weekly with 300 girls in schools in twin cities and provides mentoring, college planning, field trips to connect with women industry leaders and tools to balance school and life.

Etta has noticed how the use of social media and telephones has affected teenage girls.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, my phone’s ringing, I have to go and answer,’ and then they come back upset,” she said. “Or they scroll through social media and see a comment and it’s ruined all day. There were even moments during the session when we talked, we had good sessions, and then someone saw that something bad was posted about them on social media and it just changed the whole direction of our whole session.

The isolation of the pandemic has also exacerbated mental health problems, according to Girls Taking Action founder Dr. Verna Cornelia Price.

“When the pandemic hit, it actually created that dynamic where the girls were alone,” she said. “Then girls connect with their friends through the computer and then they start exploring other things, like social media, then they get more and more addicted to them, then it leads to this dynamic where girls don’t sleep, now they are more worried than ever, they see more. ”

She added: “We have seen a huge, drastic change in our girls and their need for mental health, serious help for mental health.

Dr. Cornelia Price decided last school year to integrate additional mental health support for the students she works with. GTA hired a health and wellness specialist and hired a breathing expert to teach teens mindfulness practices.

“Our girls were literally walking around, holding their breath,” said Dr. Cornelia Price. “You imagine you’re an 8th grader teacher all the time, and then the moment you tell her something, she just falls apart, or explodes on you, or gets involved in some small collision with the girl next to her. ”

A few years ago, while creating the Girls Taking Action program in Guatemala, Dr. Cornelia Price met with Lori Ellis-Young, co-founder of Mineton-based nonprofit Breath Logic.

Ellis-Young conducted a breathing program with young women participating in the program in Guatemala. Their relationship continued when they both returned to the United States. Ellis-Young has created a training manual for GTA.

When the effects of the pandemic became apparent, Dr. Cornelia Price decided to include breathing exercises in weekly mentoring meetings at six of the GTA Twin Cities sites.

“I think, what can I do for our girls to know what to do when they have an anxiety attack, when they feel depressed?” Said Dr. Cornelia Price. “What can you do? Breathe, just breathe.”

Last week, Ellis-Young also guided young women through breathing exercises at the annual GTA tea for their high school students.

“This is when we can close our eyes and go inside and just feel our breath – because when we really feel we don’t think, we’re not in chaos – we become calm,” Ellis-Young said.

It teaches teens tangible exercises to calm the nervous system and reduce stress.

“So that they can find shelter or a quiet place inside, where they can go and where they can ground themselves, re-center, feel empowered and then it happens so fast that they can return and to move on with their lives, the way Dr. Verna wants them to be – to feel their importance, value, strength and appeal, ”said Ellis-Young.

Both organizations agree that one of the advantages of breathing exercises is that they can be done anywhere without anyone noticing.

“They don’t have to do much of it, they can just quietly, wherever they are, just breathe, and that was really good for our girls,” said Dr. Cornelia Price. “Just breathe in that I’m valuable, I don’t care what I see on social media, I’m valuable, I don’t care what they say, I’m valuable.” They can breathe this, so we are actually integrating affirmations into breathing techniques for our girls.

Girls Taking Action plans to expand this wellness initiative in the upcoming school year. They hope to integrate breathing literacy into weekly meetings at all 20 sites.

“They can use it at any time during times of stress, times of anxiety and just when they need to get lifted to feel more in control of their lives,” said Debbie Magnusson, GTA board member and deputy – Chairman of the Board of BreathLogic. “Now things are different for young people, we are moving at a much faster pace and there are images coming to people from all over, and then we have the impact of the pandemic. The pandemic simply accelerated and exacerbated stressors in everyday life. “

The mentors of Girls Taking Action also receive this training, which they then share with the young women they work with.

“These are tools we can teach people that they can use throughout their lives and hope to teach their mothers and fathers, teach their friends and become role models for others,” Magnusson said. “Once a person has a good foundation in basic breathing techniques, this is a whole set of tools that you can use to improve your daily life.”

Eta, who is also a lead mentor at GTA, told us that she already sees a difference from the work they do.

“Since October, I’ve noticed that a lot of girls have calmed down about behavioral issues, a lot of them have changed their mindset,” she said. “I think it’s great to be able to show them and teach them how to have those skills to help them with that, or if something else happens later in life, they also have the skills to go through that. “

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