UMatter Teens traveled throughout Metro Detroit to learn more about mental health issues that are plaguing their communities.

Featured photo courtesy of UMatter

By Amanda Smith

The UMatter Teen Fact- Finding Mission, an interactive, three-day educational trip that took place Aug. 12-14, provided Jewish teenagers the chance to learn the scope of the mental health epidemic in their community.

The goals were to recognize the problem, spur the conversation about mental health and empower teens to work together to develop solutions.

The first day was spent in Pontiac, hearing from Common Ground, the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force of Oakland County, Oakland Community Health Network and Oakland County Jail.

“Our last stop of the day was Oakland County Jail,” teen Ellie Friedman said.

“While it was certainly an emotional and difficult experience for a lot of us, it was necessary to see this often-forgotten aspect of mental health before embarking on the next two solution-focused days.”

On day two, the teens traveled to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti where they learned about Dawn Farm, the U-M Depression Center, psychiatric emergency services and Ele’s Place. While many area organizations are working to increase mental health care, Friedman said, “there just aren’t enough spaces or resources to fully meet the demand, which is an important consideration for us when we work on initiatives this year.”

The teens were motivated to take what they learned from these organizations to help increase the impact of their own UMatter programming.

The last day was spent in Southfield and Detroit visiting Lighthouse/South Oakland Shelter, Kadima and Wayne State CHAMPS. After seeing the root of the problem at Oakland County Jail on day one and seeing some options for solutions on day two, hearing from different residential programs on day three opened the teens’ eyes to the variety of solutions that help address aea mental health challenges.

Debby Suris attended the UMatter Teen Fact Finding Mission as her daughter’s chaperone. She was moved by the teens on this trip. “I was so impressed by their intelligence, curiosity and compassion,” she said. “I was deeply impacted by the teens that participated in this mission, as I watched them learn firsthand about serious and tragic human issues.
“I also watched them realize the enormous humanity that exists in our communities to change people’s lives, and that their own potential to make a difference is infinite.”

Friendship Circle will be offering a Parent Fact-Finding Mission in 2020. This trip was aided by the Stephen H. Schulman Millennium Fund.

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