Detroit neighborhood Police Officer Dan Robinson says he noticed a concerning trend among kids and teens in his patrol area over the last couple of years: an increase in reports of depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.
“Due to COVID, we’ve seen more (mental health problems) with the kids,” Robinson said. “So we wanted to figure out what we could do to get resources to them.”
Robinson says that’s why he worked with the Detroit Police Department, Chief James White and the Detroit Public Safety Foundation to organize the city’s inaugural Teen Wellness Summit. Held at four Detroit locations on Saturday, the event hosted nearly 300 tweens and teens for a day of panel discussions, motivational talks and activities designed to fortify them with the tools and resources to tackle mental health challenges head-on.
“We came up with this idea to get kids comfortable with sharing feelings,” Robinson said. “We want them to know how to identify if they’re having an issue, and what to do to cope with that issue — and same for their friends and family.”
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The event, which was held live at the Fort Pontchartrain Hotel and then livestreamed to three satellite locations, kicked off with a lively (and parent-free) group session emceed by Free Press communities and neighborhoods reporter Jasmin Barmore.
“If you’re struggling with mental challenges, typically you’re a victim of something,” Barmore said. “I just want kids to know, just like adults know, that it’s OK to not be OK. But what’s not OK, is to not be OK and not speak up.”