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City of Rochester announces youth mental health survey

Rochester City School District students arrive at Montessori Academy School No. 53 for the first day of classes. (photo by Max Schulte)
Max Schulte
Zaria McNeil, an 8th grader who has attended Allendale Columbia School’s LEAP program for 4 years, reads allowed to the leadership class where  RCSD students are given mentoring skills to then help teach younger students at the summer LEAP program. (photo by Max Schulte)

The city of Rochester is rolling out a youth mental health initiative ahead of the summer break.

The project starts with a community survey that includes questions about factors that affect a person’s overall well-being — questions like "Do you feel safe" at home, in school, and in your neighborhood; "How often do you eat in a day?" and "Do you have reliable housing" at least four nights a week?

The goal is to find and address trends that are negatively affecting teen mental health in the city.

"When we identify what those areas are, we are going to kind of transition that into the next phase,” said Isaac Bliss, manager of youth services with the city's Department of Recreation and Human Services.

The survey will be live for a couple of weeks, Bliss said. The information shared will be used to create peer-led workshops around key areas of concern based on survey responses. Teens who are part of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, also called Youth Voice One Vision, will lead those workshops. The council began in 1996 under a different name: City/County Youth Council.

“We are asking our peers to take this survey and be part of the Youth Mental Health Initiative so we can make sure Rochester’s youth play a role in improving their own mental health,” Sarah Adams, a youth activist and member of the youth advisory council, said in a statement. “Rochester’s youth are talented, we are ambitious, and we can do whatever we set our minds to. I am calling on all city youth to rise to the occasion and recognize the importance of taking care of their mental health.”

The peer-to-peer mental health program is a partnership between the city government and the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. This summer is the soft launch, but next year will be the full rollout, Bliss said.

“This topic is arguably one of the most important conversations our community can have,” Mayor Malik Evans said in a statement. “Our youth have yet another beacon of hope, which is helping to shape a brighter future for our community."

The survey is live now on the city of Rochester’s website. The city is encouraging teens, parents, recreation center staff, and teachers to complete it.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.