Last night, Palmetto Bay held its 6th Annual Kids Town Hall. The virtual event was broadcast live on the Village's Facebook page and YouTube channel.
This year's theme was stress and anxiety in teens, focusing on mental health wellness for our youths. The topic is presently of particular importance as many teens suffered through anxiety and depression with the added stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, May is National Mental Health Month and this is one of the ways that Palmetto Bay addressed this concerning societal issue.
Mayor Karyn Cunningham opened the town hall welcoming the expert panel, which included Pinecrest Mayor Joe Corradino, School Board Member Luisa Santos, University of Miami Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May, Miami Palmetto Sr. Cap Advisor Harry Nerenberg, University of Miami Dr. Amanda Jensen-Doss, Retired Business Executive Myra Solomon, and co-hosts Carolina Merchan and Lara Gastelumendi! Merchan and Gastelumendi of Miami Palmetto Senior High School and MAST Homestead respectively, co-founded Blooming Mind Miami, a student-led organization created to decrease the stigmatization of mental health in all ages by educating the community and connecting individuals to available resources.
At the onset of the town hall, Mayor Cunningham spoke to the audience providing an important and alarming fact about mental health for young adolescents, "One in three of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder.", said Mayor Cunningham. Panel members answered questions from teens and discussed the enormous social and educational pressures that are impacting teens, distractions from social media and the Internet in general, biases between genders and gender role expectations, the stigma related to seeking help, the anxiety created by the COVID-19 pandemic and even the college application process. The panelists also offered useful advise and provided strategies to help those dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues. They also mentioned some of the resources available to those seeking help, which are listed at the end of the video and below.
School Board Member Santos indicated that the school system would be prioritizing social and emotional learning and mental health as part for its upcoming Summer school program.
The overarching message from the panelists to the listeners was to not be afraid to speak with a counselor, a parent, schoolteacher, or other adult about any anxiety-causing issues. There are plenty of tools and resources out there to help, but those are only available to those who seek them. "You will only get help if you ask", said Mr. Nerenberg. The town hall ended with a message recited in unison by the panelists, led by Mayor Cunningham, "Don't be afraid to ask for help!"
If you missed the event last night, you can still watch it on Facebook or on our YouTube Channel. You can also check out the Blooming Minds Miami Instagram account here.