Teens supporting teens – The Happy Crew
By Elise Brassell; photo courtesy of The Happy Crew
A smile and a kind word from a friend can brighten anyone’s day, but when teens need extra support, The Happy Crew is here! The Happy Crew is a group who empowers teenagers to help their peers reduce stress, anxiety and depression through listening and talking with each other about difficult issues.
Depression, anxiety, and suicide are major issues for teens, and Colorado ranks sixth in the nation for most teen deaths by suicide. Statistics like this led Amy Mays to form The Happy Crew.
Mays said, “We founded The Happy Crew as a way to encourage and train teenagers in Douglas County in how to listen to and help friends dealing with mental health issues. Since most teens approach their friends before reaching out to an adult when they are struggling, we want teens to know how to respond. We equip teens to be excellent listeners, know how to offer coping skills, recognize when a friend needs to be put in touch with an adult, and to stay with a friend who is suicidal until expert, professional help arrives.”
During weekly dinners together, often at Mays’ own home, Mays and trained mentors lead members in group discussions and strategize about ways to reach out and help friends and fellow students. “You matter, you belong” is the mantra for the group, which has had 106 teens participate so far this year from schools including Rock Canyon, Chaparral, Lutheran, Highlands Ranch, Ponderosa and Regis high schools.
During meetings teens work on supporting each other, developing their abilities to actively listen, help with peer coping skills and better manage their own mental health. Teens role-play to learn how to deal with different scenarios that friends may share with them. Meetings aren’t always filled with serious discussions; there are plenty of laughs and a feeling of community among friends too.
“We welcome all teenagers! Participating in this program gives teens the ability to provide basic mental health first aid to friends. We want to make responding to mental health issues as easy as helping a friend with a cold. We train teens in important steps they can take to help a friend in pain. Listening skills are vital and will impact every life relationship – with friends, parents, family, teachers and employers. Together, in community and conversation, we can destigmatize mental health issues and make a positive impact,” Mays said.
To learn more about The Happy Crew and its mission to destigmatize mental health issues and help teens find belonging and community, visit thehappycrew.org.
We invite readers to send suggestions for nonprofit organizations to feature. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to learning more and sharing information about nonprofits in our community throughout the year.