City advocates for peer-led solutions to tackle teen mental health and crime

Youth Programs

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — With rising concerns over teen crime, stolen cars, gun violence, and deteriorating mental health among young people, Rochester’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, Youth Voice, One Vision, is taking proactive steps to address these challenges. The council has developed a Youth Mental Health Survey, encouraging local teens to participate and openly share their needs for mental health care.

Mayor Malik Evans emphasizes the importance of peer influence, noting, “The best way to reach young people is through young people.” This initiative aims to foster open dialogue about mental health and encourage participation in available services and programs. RCSD School Commissioner Isaiah Santiago, a former participant in YVOV, highlighted the power of youth-to-youth mentorship. Santiago shared his journey and the significant impact mentorship had on diverting young people from gangs and drug-related violence.

Yet, the challenge remains: How to effectively engage those teens at risk. Marsha Augustin from News10NBC raised this question with Mayor Evans, highlighting a concern that many youths might prioritize risky behaviors over seeking help. Lacey Jones, a junior involved in the initiative, pointed out that awareness isn’t the issue; rather, it’s convincing teens of the programs’ worth. She believes that trust and testimonials from peers can make a significant difference.

As the survey progresses, the next steps will involve analyzing the results to fine-tune programs directly addressing the mental health needs of Rochester’s youth. Mayor Evans and involved youths like Santiago and Jones are dedicated to crafting a brighter, safer future for the city’s young residents by ensuring their voices are heard and their mental health needs are met.

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