Counseling Group, Boys and Girls Clubs Tackle Youth Mental Health
During April’s Counseling Awareness Month, the American Counseling Association rolled out an online toolkit to help staff and volunteers for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America best maintain the mental well-being of youth.
Under a new partnership, the American Counseling Association will help the staff and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America address the struggles that today’s youth experience.
The new online toolkit, which was created by ACA, is called “Grow, Connect, Empower!“ and includes podcasts and tip sheets to instruct adults on how best to guide teens navigating common social and cultural challenges, as well as how to refer youth to local counselors.
As requested by BGCA staff, topics covered in the toolkit include understanding youth bullying, inclusion and well-being of LGBT youth, working with youth from military families, working within a multicultural community, suicide prevention, developmental characteristics of teens, and working with disabled youth.
“This is a reflection of society. This a reflection of the important issues that the youth of today are going through,” said ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan, CAE. “The staff and volunteers said, ‘This is what the kids are telling us on a daily basis, and we don’t know what to say back to them. We don’t know how to help them with these issues, so we’d like some help.’”
Counseling professionals—members of ACA, including seven of its past presidents—not only tailored these resources to those working for BGCA but also made the information free, accessible, and understandable.
“They were specifically designed for non-counselors,” Kaplan said. “We tried very much to use language and words that the general public would understand rather than professional counselors.”
As BGCA begins promoting youth mental health, in addition to physical health and education, this toolkit will be one of the first resources provided to its volunteers. While Kaplan hopes the relationship will expand, he said these resources can start the initial conversation around challenges the kids face.
The addition of these resources will help “to identify the Boys and Girls Clubs of America as a safe place for the youth of America to go and talk about these issues,” Kaplan said. They will help demonstrate to the kids “that this is a safe place to come and talk about it and to present those issues, and we’ll help you with them.”