American teens carry a heavy load. Hybrid learning, peer pressure, social skills, and social media – the list goes on and on. A survey by the Pew Research Center shows any or all of these topics can push youth ages 13 to 17 to destructive behaviors including anxiety, depression, bullying, and drug and alcohol use (and abuse).
“We know when our doors are open our youth are less likely to get involved in things that can be detrimental to their growth and success,” said Brittney Watson, program director for The Teen Drop-In Center, a branch of the Villa Maria Behavioral Health Clinic in Dundalk. The center focuses on providing fun, safe space for youth exposed to drug usage, gangs, and violence. The trained staff members also teach teens how to build life skills, coping skills, self-confidence, and emotional recognition.
“Someone that loves you and cares for you”
As the new school year kicked off, Watson and her team held a family fun night. The idea was to let the youth invite loved ones to their safe haven and share a part of their world.
The event included game night, prizes, gift bags, and a sit-down dinner where teen participants served the families in attendance. The festivities wrapped with Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Administrator Karen Haughey serving as guest speaker. Haughey, a licensed clinical social worker with a background in substance use disorder treatment, discussed the importance of open communication within the family, supporting your children, as well as how to access help.
“Our team is very humbled by the experience of having the families join us, we are grateful to be able to give back,” said Watson. “Our team is very passionate about what we do and providing our children with safety, love, and attention. We know the feeling of having someone that loves you and cares for you, and we are happy to provide these feelings for these children although they are not our own.”
The Teen Drop-In Center located at 4 N. Dundalk Ave in Dundalk, is open during the school year on weekdays from 4-7 p.m., and from 1-5 p.m. during the summer.