Why Mental Health Support Is So Important for Young People at Ozone House

Ozone House General Blog

Just last week, the U.S. surgeon general warned about the significant increases in young people experiencing depression, anxiety and emergency-room visits for mental health challenges. The pandemic has only escalated the “devastating” mental health issues youth were already facing. 

Youth experiencing homelessness are commonly subject to various forms of trauma, including adverse interpersonal relationships, childhood maltreatment, emotional and physical abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, that can have detrimental effects on their mental health.

Ozone House plays a vital role in helping young people access supportive housing as well as other community support, such as therapy and case management services.

Why is receiving therapy/mental health services necessary especially for youth who are experiencing housing instability or homelessness?

The overall development of a young person, their social, emotional, and physical needs, can be greatly impacted by the stressors of homelessness. They often struggle with self-esteem, experience behavioral, emotional and academic problems, engage in risky behavior and are at risk for substance use and mental health disorders.  Having access to mental health services at Ozone House is vital in helping that young person to get the support they need so they can be their best self.

Young people run away when home life becomes unbearable or are forced to leave when they are misunderstood by parents or caretakers. Sometimes home isn’t the best option.  For some young people, home represents violence and chaos.  At Ozone House, they can get in control of their feelings and figure out next steps toward safety and stability. Through mental health services, they learn coping and relaxation skills and how to release emotions in a healthy way.  They learn about anger management and how to navigate the chaos in their lives through tools such as journaling, meditation and changing patterns of thinking. 

“This work matters to me because I am one small part of an amazing team of people who care so much about letting young people know they are loved and cared for.  It is this team of people who, together, work to break down barriers which so often prevent young people from gaining access to the support they need. As I think about the young people who are and have been a part of the Ozone House, I like to imagine them continuing on their journey with resilience and creativity.”

– Ozone House therapist

What mental health services does Ozone House provide?

Ozone House’s fully licensed therapists provide individual therapeutic services to young people in our Emergency Shelter, our Transitional Living Program, and in our Community Based Prevention Services. Families with youth who are receiving prevention support services, shelter or aftercare services have the option to participate in family therapy with our therapists. Therapists focus on creating agreements with parents in order to put a stop to harmful behaviors.  They build a team with the family and provide back up and support, helping to put in place expectations and consequences, rules, routine, and structure. This leads to fewer blow ups and arguments later. 

Our therapists also conduct group therapy giving youth the opportunity to collectively frame what has happened to them in the past and shape their beliefs about the future. The therapist ensures that group experiences are attuned to the developmental impact of trauma and helps youth to access their strengths and build healthier, more productive coping strategies. All therapy provided at Ozone House follows a trauma-informed, positive youth development approach and is intended to enhance self-esteem, foster permanency and create positive relationships. Goals are short-term and solution-focused to help build the skills needed to move young people and their families out of crisis.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”… “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

– Maya Angelou

Therapy for young people over 18 years-old, often focuses on success in school or work and on learning how to successfully tackle adult responsibilities. Young people work to establish their identity in relation to the world around them.  They learn to find the safety to be who they are, to find like-minded people and to build community. Youth can make decisions about their future and take ownership of their lives while learning the skills they need to succeed.

Ozone House is a place where youth are allowed to just be, without expectations on them that stem from family dynamics. Here, they don’t have to take on a parenting role in order to make things ok for themselves. They’re allowed to be a kid, instead of managing an unmanageable life.

How do these services help set up our young people for success?

Mental health services help to set our young people up for success by getting them back in school and building coping tools and communication skills. They help youth learn to gain power and control in a healthy way, learning to use their voices to break the cycle of dysfunction.  Being heard means everything to a young person. Many young people don’t even have language to express what they have experienced in their lives. Here, they learn how to feel emotion and still communicate effectively. Further, therapy teaches youth and their family the skills needed to reunify.

They learn to identify and regulate emotions in an intentional way. They begin to understand what they have control over. They learn healthy patterns of eating and sleeping and how to surround themselves with things that nurture them.

When young people engage in therapy services, they work with a diverse and experienced team who assists them along their journey to learning all the skills needed to help them be their best version of self.  As their self-esteem grows, things that were negatively impacting their life are replaced with a sense of self-worth.  Youth learn that people care about them, they laugh and find hope, they connect with other young people and build a support network, they learn to trust others. They create goals, and take steps toward reaching those goals.  Therapists help to increase young people’s protective factors by equipping them with tools to manage their life safely and supportively.

Therapy helps youth learn that the world doesn’t have to just happen to them, that they can experience joy and peace.