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The Chris Center Inc. addresses the mental and emotional wellness needs of adolescents in central Indiana. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges during these formative years when they face great social, physical, and emotional change. Many factors contribute to an adolescent’s risk of developing mental health conditions, including the following: exploration of identity, peer pressure, quality and stability of home life, exposure to trauma or violence, substance abuse, poverty, and social media influence. Adolescents at greatest risk of mental illness include members of minority racial or ethnic backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those with developmental or intellectual disabilities, individuals living with chronic illness, and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth.
National and state governmental health data demonstrate the need for increased support of adolescent wellness. According to the CDC’s 2019 (pre-pandemic) data on US high school students: greater than 1 in 3 high school students have experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, approximately 1 in 5 students have seriously considered suicide, and almost 1 in 10 has attempted suicide. Moreover, the isolation and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic have profoundly worsened the state of adolescent mental health with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and intentional self-harm. According to FAIR Health, in 2021 mental health claims among teens doubled during the pandemic.
Additional resources to support the mental and emotional well-being of adolescents in Indiana are urgently needed. Unfortunately, Indiana ranks in the bottom one-third of US states in terms of adolescent mental health due to a high prevalence of mental illness and poor access to mental health care (SAMHSA 2015 Behavioral Health Barometer, Indiana). The Chris Center programs are an accessible, affordable, and innovative option available to adolescents in addition to traditional forms of professional mental health treatment.