Chicago Teens Finding New Ways To Fight Mental Health

Group Of Teenagers Sharing Text Message On Mobile PhonesDepression and mental illness don’t discriminate. All over Chicago, adults and teens are experimenting with new programs to help Chicago teens overcome the challenges in their lives.

At Maria Catalyst High School, a new modeling workshop for aspiring young models is teaching these girls about more than just fashion. YK Management: The Workshop program is teaching valuable self-confidence and body positivity to students in the hopes that it will help boost their self-esteem.

Yoshimi Kiosha, 26, is already bringing the intensive, four-week program to South Shore and Dunbar, and hopes to expand it to high schools all over Chicago. Through the after-school program, Kiosha teaches teens about the modeling industry, runway techniques and interview skills, and brings in professional stylists and makeup artists to teach the girls to look and feel their best.

“I used to see myself as fat, and I always thought fat was unhealthy,” said Elizabeth, one of the girls in the Maria Catalyst High School program. “She explained that being bigger than the petite models doesn’t mean that you’re not healthy.”

At the same time, Morehouse College graduate Corey Hardiman is trying to spread his own message of hope among Chicago’s young men. Every spring break, Hardiman and 16 other “Hope Dealers” travel to Chicago’s South Side to speak to young men about getting into college.

“I believe in the philosophy if I don’t see it, I can’t become it, but if I do see it, I have a vision in mind,” Hardiman told DNA Info Chicago. “Hope Dealers is a two-fold thing. It’s to get students politically engaged, educationally inspired, and to challenge the social quota, defying the [black male] stereotype.”

Every day, about 1,400 young people will make a suicide attempt. Teenagers who suffer from depression are 12 times more likely to do so.

Holy Trinity Catholic High School freshman Jonathan Vega, 15, and Jelani Jackson, 14, recently won a competition for their app idea. After some of the teens’ classmates committed suicide, Vega and Jackson participated in the international “World Series of Innovation” competition, winning praise for their app idea.

The Aegis is an app and bracelet that would act as an early warning system if someone is at risk of extreme behavior. One day, the teens hope to put the idea into practice, helping more teens struggling with mental illness to reach adulthood.