The free forum was open to anyone from middle school through college
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With everything from the COVID pandemic to a rise in hate crimes and escalating gun violence, behavioral health providers say it’s more important than ever that the younger population has an outlet to not only share what they’re experiencing but also to get help if they need it.
Multnomah County held its second Youth Mental Health forum on Saturday afternoon, open to those from middle school through college.
The forum offered a chance for young people to connect with each other while also learning about the resources available if they are experiencing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or other mental crises.
“It’s critical because right now, students have been challenged,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.
“There’s a lot of issues weighing heavy on the minds of our youth today. The isolation that came from the pandemic, it’s been really tough and a lot of students feel like they don’t have a place to reach out or someone they can talk to. “
The event was free for attendees — both in-person at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland and virtually. It also gave kids and teens the chance to speak one-on-one with community leaders and elected officials, sharing their ideas on how to create permanent help for these youth through public policy.
“Mental health is underdiscussed and overabundant,” said Jason Anajovich, a youth planner for the event and emcee. “The percentages of people who experience mental health and for years, don’t have the language to describe it, feel like they’re the only ones who have their experience or feel like that’s just what normal is supposed to be, are the people who need the most help.”
The first youth mental health forum was held in 2020 just before COVID. Organizers said while much has changed since then, it’s clear young people need these kinds of outlets now more than ever.